Thinking of celebrating Chinese New Year and bringing luck and prosperity to your family and loved ones for the Year of the Rat?
Well, that leaves the question of what wine to drink with your Chinese feast. While the rule of thumb is generally to stick to the more aromatic varieties like Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc, from Germany and Alsace, it is a bit more complicated than that. All you have to do is take one look at the size of China, and you start to realise that the food across this massive country varies hugely.
Added to this, in China, meals are served banquet style, so there are many different dishes on the table at the one time, ranging hugely in flavour and texture. And until recently, you would be more likely to have had a warm rather than a cold drink with your meal.
If you're planning on eating the traditional steamed dumplings - as the more you eat the wealthier you will be for the year ahead - wine-pairing expert Fiona Beckett suggests accompanying them with a good sparkling wine, preferably a blanc de blanc Champagne. Or you could pair them with a crisp Chablis, or Albariño, like the one in today's line-up. These wines will also work beautifully with Chinese steamed fish. Just be sure to serve the fish whole, with the head and tail attached, as it symbolises a good beginning and end to the year ahead.
If you want to stick with crisp white wines, another traditional dish for Chinese New Year is a whole chicken that has been cooked in a broth. But once you move to something with a bit more sweetness, like the steamed and stir fried Cantonese dishes from Guangdong province, off dry, aromatic wines work best, so will pair nicely with old favourites like sweet and sour pork and lemon chicken. And if you're having crispy duck with pancakes, try a fruity Pinot Noir from New Zealand.
Off dry, aromatic wines can also work well with Sichuan cuisine, and sit alongside the spicy, full-flavoured dishes which can be mouth-numbingly hot from the use of Sichuan pepper. Or for something with a bit more weight, try an off dry, deep-coloured rosé, not a delicate Provence rosé which will be overwhelmed by the spice. And of course, there's always beer, which works particularly well with hot dishes.
For hearty dishes, like the spicy grilled meats from the Yunnan province, go for fleshier, fruity wines, like a Spanish Grenache, a Chilean Merlot, an Australian Shiraz, or, for something really unusual, a Chinese red wine. Because yes, they are making wine in China and we can expect to see more of it.
For more celebrations, you could head to the Chinnery Gin Chinese New Year cocktail event with The Little Pig on February 8 led by mixologist Pat Thomas. Tickets include two Chinnery Gin cocktails, tasters from The Little Pig's Chinese New Year cocktail menu and a Chinnery Gin tasting session. Tickets €40, Eventbrite.com
Say goodbye to Dry January and head to The Corkscrew Annual Wine Fair on February 2 at The Westbury Hotel in Dublin, where over 100 wines will be available for tasting. Winemakers attending include Christoph Thörle from their new German house, Anthony Aubert from Aubert & Mathieu, Guillaume Vavasseur from Burgundy producer Vincent Girardin, and new prosecco house, Bepindeeto. Profits go to Pieta House. €25, thecorkscrew.ie
Laurent Miquel Albariño 2018
€10, 13pc, from Dunnes
Crisp and citrusy nose, this fresh Albariño with its mix of stone fruit underpinned by zingy grapefruit, lemon, and lime, is a great match for dim sum, steamed fish, shellfish and light noodle dishes.
Exquisite Collection Alsace Pinot Gris 2018
€9.99, 12.5pc, from Aldi
This is the same grape as Pinot Grigio but is made in a very different style and here you get a rich, off dry wine with notes of pear, pineapple and mango, which works perfectly with Cantonese food.
Pretty Pony 2013
€52.99, 14pc, from Mitchell's, The Corkscrew, Redmond's, Clontarf Wines, Terroirs, all Dublin; The Wine House, Trim, and wineonline.ie
From vineyards in Ningxia, China, this blend of 90pc Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10pc Merlot, has bright flavours of blackberry, blackcurrant, plum and a touch of spice.
I spent two and a half weeks travelling around the south of Italy during the summer, starting in Naples, driving through Basilicata, over the Apennines to Puglia, then across to Calabria and finishing up in Sicily. Yes, it was a lot of moving around, but I hadn't been to these parts of the country before so a road trip was called for.
Soave? Yes, you may remember this as a relatively flavourless, uninspiring white wine that you chugged last century, but it is definitely worth revisiting, as there is now some top-quality wine being produced in the region. Soave is not the name of the grape. Like most Italian wines, it is named after the place where it is produced.
It's Christmas, and time for a feel-good story. After a year that has seen increasing focus on how we're treating our planet, and how we plan to move into the future, it was so wonderful to meet a truly marvellous human being on a recent trip to Margaret River with Wine Australia.