Asia is not normally associated with wine, but high quality wines are made in many Asian wineries – and not just sake. In fact, Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand are praised for their red and white wines. For example, in the 2004 Los Angeles County Fair Wines of the World Competition, a Thai wine won the bronze medal.
Sake and Asian Plum Wine
Despite the increasing popularity and dissemination of Asian wines both in Asia and in other areas of the world, the most well-known Asian wines are still sake and Asian plum wine.
Sake is known as the Japanese “rice wine,” although it is not actually a wine. Wines are defined as alcohol made with the single fermentation of plant juices, whereas sake is made with multiple fermentations of rice. Sake is sold either in pure forms, or forms with added alcohol. Sake varieties also differ in taste, and can be described as “sweet” or “dry” depending on the sugar and acid levels present.
Asian plum wine usually refers to umeshu, which is actually a Japanese plum liquor, made by soaking unripe plums in shochu (another type of Japanese alcohol) and sugar. Other countries, such as Korea and China also have similar versions of plum wine.
Plum wine is very sweet, and can be sipped alone or used to add unique flavor to cooking recipes.
Asian Pear Wine
Asian pear wine, as its name implies, is wine made with Asian pears or Asian apple-pears. This type of wine is not Asian in origination, but the true Asian pears do come from Japan and China.
Asian Pear sake can also be found online or in specialty drink stores.
Other Asian Wines
The history of Asian wine made from grapes dates back at least 2,000 years, when the Russians brought grape plants to China. In the 1870s, French wine production methods were introduced. Since then, many wineries from different Asian countries have developed, produced and sold their own wine, including red, white and rose wines. The countries most notable as wine producers are:
Wineries in Southeast Asia are abundant because of the warm climate and its effect on the plants. The method of growing the vineyards is unique for some countries, with Indonesia”s vines draped through trees, and some of Thailand”s vineyards floating in water.
Among the notable Asian wineries are China”s Huadong Winery, who”s Chardonnay has won gold medals in Europe, and Thailand”s Chateau de Loei, the first commercially produced Thai wine to hit the market.
Entertaining with Asian Wine
Expand your cultural knowledge by trying out an Asian wine at your next dinner party. You can experiment by pairing your Asian wine with a familiar meal, or try your hand at an Asian meal to match the origin of your wine.
While not traditional, some stores sell Asian wine charms to decorate the wine glasses, which can add to the atmosphere. Round out the gathering with wine gift bags, Asian wine samples included, so your guests can introduce others to the flavors of Asian wine.
Asian Food and Wine Lists
When it comes to Asian food, wine pairing is just as feasible as it is with any gourmet meal. Most wines produced in Asian countries are good accompaniments to that countries cuisine. For example, the light, fruity flavor of Monsoon Valley wines made at Siam Winery in Thailand match well with spicy Thai dishes. Similarly, light Indian red wines are said to be a refreshing accompaniment to meat curries.
Asian food combines spicy, sweet, salty and sour flavors, so the best wine for pairing has moderate levels of alcohol and a crisp acidity.