As we get into the heart of winter, one of the things I enjoy the most is hot pot. Hot pot is popular in many Asian cultures. It consists of a large simmering pot of water or soup stock which is used to cook a variety of raw ingredients. This concept is believed to have originated from the Jin dynasty in China - legend has it that Mongolian horsemen used their helmets as a vessel to simmer broth filled with chunks of meat over an open fire. It continued to gain popularity, particularly among the emperors, in the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties. Today, it is popular in many Asian cultures to have hot pot during the Winter Solstice (which just passed) and the Lunar New Year, as it symbolizes equality and unity since everyone who has hot pot together shares in the experience equally and communally. It is very simple to prepare and quite healthy since the food is cooked by boiling it in water. With current COVID concerns, hot pot can only be enjoyed with your immediate family bubble, but many hot pot restaurants have adapted to provide individual hot pots for each customer. While you may think boiled food is plain, the food is brought alive by a multitude of sauces that can be mixed and concocted to suit your taste.
Hot pot can be as simple as having vegetables and noodles as ingredients or as elaborate as having shellfish like crab and lobster, and meat like lamb or beef. Because of the diversity of flavours, the hot pot experience can prove to be particularly challenging for those who enjoy wines with their meal.
The safest wine pairing with hot pot is champagne or sparkling wine. The acidity and fruitiness of most champagnes and sparkling wines is an obvious pairing for the relatively mild and subtle taste of most hot pot ingredients. Another relatively safe wine choice is a wine made with the Sauvignon Blanc grape varietal, which should pair well with any shellfish ingredients.
A more daring pairing would be a red wine made from the Grenache grape varietal. Wines made from the Grenache grape will exhibit bright ripe fruits, and relatively soft tannins which should pair nicely with meat ingredients. These would include wines from the Chateauneuf du Pape region in France or some wines from Spain (where Grenache is known as Garnacha).
Many people enjoy spicy or Sichuan style hot pot broth, which contains peppercorns and chilli and can be so spicy that it is literally tongue numbing and makes you sweat! This is very challenging to pair with wine, but if you are up to the challenge, try a big fruity, bold, alcoholic Australian Shiraz or Amarone served slightly chilled. The high alcohol, low tannins and tremendous sweetness is a soothing counter balance to the spiciness of the hot pot experience.
Ultimately, wine and food pairings are about your own personal preferences, and experimenting with different food and wine combinations can be quite fun. It gives you a new perspective on wines that you may not have appreciated in the past.
For this article’s recommendation, try the Barossa Valley Estate 2017 GSM (Grenache Shiraz Mouvedre). It’s a nice blend of red wine grape varietals which should pair quite nicely with any hot pot you encounter. It’s on sale this month from $21.99 to $18.99. Until next time, happy drinking!
Until next time, happy drinking!