Chateau Margaux & Cantonese Cuisine

1 March 2011
Author: Jeannie Cho Lee

Chateau Margaux’s commitment to marry iconic dishes from China’s provincial cuisines with its wines has resulted in a series of exclusive wine dinners held in key Chinese cities. Two events were held in Beijing and Shanghai where Shandong and Shanghainese cuisines were paired with Chateau Margaux wines. The latest in this series was held in Hong Kong on 22 February, 2001, hosted by Mr. Paul Pontallier, the General Manager and Wine Maker of Château Margaux, Mr. Aurélien Valance, the Commercial Director and Mr. Thibault Pontallier, the brand ambassador in Asia. Jeannie Cho Lee MW was the guest of honour and helped collaborate on the food and wine pairings for this special dinner.  The dinner took place at Yung Kee restaurant, renown for its delicious Cantonese cuisine for over 50 years.


This is a behind the scenes look into the event where we follow Jeannie during her tasting lunch, held a week before the dinner. As she carefully chooses the items on the menu, we learn a few tips on pairing Cantonese dishes with wine.


Pavillon Blanc 2009


This is one of the best recent vintages of Margaux white, Jeannie explains. She adds, “Because of its youth and firm acidity, it can pair well with a wide range of dishes including tofu, fried items, meat or seafood.” To showcase this wine’s flexibility and ability to match well with a wide range of dishes, Jeannie rejects easy pairings such as steamed fish or tofu. Instead, she selects an appetizer platter containing three bite-size dim sum morsels: Steamed Diced Chicken & Mushroom Wrapped with Egg White, Barbecue char siu pork and Steamed Vegetable Dumpling. Jeannie explains: “The 2009 Pavillon Blanc is an incredibly versatile wine and works with a wide range of dishes, even alongside condiments such as soy sauce or XO sauce. This beautifully balanced Pavillon Blanc has crisp acidity with flavours that are intricately layered but intense enough to pair with the strong flavours of the barbecued pork.  However, it pairs just as well with delicate steamed vegetable dumplings. This combination shows us how versatile a vibrant white wine can be for Cantonese dim sum style meals.”


Pavillon Blanc 1988


For this mature white Margaux, Jeannie says she is looking for a dish with subtlety and depth. She unhesitatingly chooses the Sautéed Prawns because this dish is about minimal seasonings and subtlety. Jeannie’s says, “The natural sweetness in the shrimp as well as the delicacy of its texture is perfect with the mature Pavillon Blanc — there is a wonderful interplay of subtle flavours.”


Pavillon Rouge 2003


Jeannie ponders which barbecue dish to pair with this wine. Given its youth, intense flavours from the ripe grapes from the 2003 vintage, Jeannie settles on Yung Kee’s classic Roasted Goose. She says, “The wine would have worked equally well with Peking Duck or Roast Suckling Pig. But given that roast goose is the house speciality, I had to choose it. I knew the 2003 would be a great match with the goose’s burnt soya sauce and slightly sweet flavours of the goose skin and succulent meat.” 


Pavillon Rouge 1989


Sea cucumber was chosen as the best companion with the Pavillon Rouge 1989 in the Beijing and Shanghai dinner series. Here in Hong Kong, Jeannie insisted that the 1989 Pavillon be paired with the Deep Fried Duck Coated with Mashed Taro. Initially this dish was paired with the 2003 Pavillon but it was changed because Jeannie was looking for soft evolved tannins. “I chose the 1989 with this dish specifically because of the texture. The velvety softness in this dish from the taro with a touch of crispiness requires a similarly silky textured wine and the 1989 with 22 years of maturity is perfect.”


Château Margaux 1999


Tasted two years ago, Jeannie remembered Margaux 1999 as a full bodied and plush beauty with a hint of truffle and tar. More recently when she tried this wine, she said, “I under-rated the 1999 when it was young and thought that a few years ago, it was surprisingly good. Now, 12 years later, I have to admit this is a sensational wine that took time to unveal its beauty and charm. Its bouquet is magical and is the epitome of Chateau Margaux.” For this dish, she chose Yung Kee’s award-winning “Cloudy Tea” Smoked Pork both for its equally aromatic fragrance and its soft texture.  Jeannie added, “The soft, gorgeous texture, along with intense flavours including tea leaves in this pork dish pairs beautifully with the Château Margaux 1999. The tea leaves bring out the beautiful fragrance of Margaux while the umami flavours of this dish marries very well with the wine’s silky tannins.”


Château Margaux 1989


This is one of Jeannie’s favourite vintages of Chateau Margaux from the 1980s, along with the 1983. Traditionally, a Cantonese meal ends with a simple noodle or rice dish but she says this would not do the wine justice. So she ponders about adding another dish and takes the chef’s suggestion of this slow-cooked Braised Beef Brisket with Mushroom. Jeannie thought the flavours of the beef belly and dried mushrooms would be enhanced by the 1989 Margaux’ generous flavours and velvety tannins. Jeannie saids, “The strong flavours of both the wine and the dish are well suited, with neither over-powering the other.”