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Pairing for The Asian Palate

August 1, 2012

Master of wine Jeannie Cho Lee shares tips on what to drink with Asian cuisine. By Merritt Gurley

Published on Aug 1, 2012

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When it comes to wine, Jeannie Cho Lee is one of a kind—literally. She is the only Korean Master of Wine in the world. A Master of Wine, in case you aren’t familiar with the rare title, is a gifted oenophile who has passed the course of study at London's Institute of Masters of Wine. There are currently less than 300 individuals alive who bare the distinction.

One of only four Masters of Wine based in Asia, Lee has made it her mission to educate the public about enjoying wine with Asian cuisine. Too long wine has been collecting dust in Japanese, Thai, Malaysian and Chinese restaurants while sake and local beers have taken the limelight. Now Lee is hopin to put wine at the center of many Asian meals.

Lee has authored two books on the subject: Asian Palate and Mastering Wine for the Asian Palate, with a third in the works. Her latest project is educating people on how to talk about wine. “By using descriptions of ingredients we know and love, I hope to have people remember the flavors better,” she says, “thus building confidence and increasing the chances that they will really remember the wines.” Lee will take part at World Gourmet Festival at the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok (September 3 to 9) where she says attendees can expect to learn a more Asian-centric wine vocabulary. “I will share my thoughts and experiences on how best to introduce wine to a table brimming with intense spices and seasonings, such as those in a typical Thai or Vietnamese meal.”

Read on for her input on how to choose, drink and pair wines with classic Asian meals, along with a general tips on wine buying and trends.

Things to avoid when choosing a wine

1. Blatant marketing names such as “Purple Cowboy” and “Cupcake Cabernet.”
2. Any seepage or leaking from the top, which indicates the bottle was most likely badly stored, handled or transported.
3. Any wines targeted just for women or just for men.

Wine myths debunked
1. Gewurztraminer goes with all Asian food. Wrong. This variety is so powerful that it overwhelms delicate flavors and textures easily.
2. White wines with fish. Wrong. With Asian food, it is not the ingredients that need to be paired with wine but the seasonings.
3. Lightly-colored red wines like Pinot Noir are thin and light wine that should be paired with light foods. Wrong. Pinot Noir pairs wonderfully with barbecued meats, especially Peking Duck and roast goose.
Three wines to keep stocked at all times
1. Good sparkling wine, especially champagne
2. Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Oregon or New Zealand
3. Vintage 1980's Bordeaux (Bordeaux becomes more versatile after 20 years)

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