Food & Wine Pros | Why Mosel riesling matches Vietnamese food

Food & Wine Pros

Why Mosel riesling matches Vietnamese food

Our roving gastronaut Lucy Bridgers discovers why German Mosel riesling is the ideal wine pairing for Vietnamese food

Lucy writes: I recently went to a dinner at Mien Tay restaurant in Battersea hosted by Bibendum Wines where the guest of honour was leading German wine producer Ernie Loosen (on left of picture) who brought along several notable bottles.

Bibendum staff and guests were also armed with fine Rieslings from around the world, giving us the chance to see how well this grape variety matches this particular cuisine.

Although some non-German Rieslings showed well – Prophet's Rock from New Zealand's Central Otago, Lageder Rain Riesling (Alto Adige) and a magnificent magnum of Petaluma Riesling, it quickly became clear how well Mosel Riesling paired with the lively spiciness of so many Vietnamese dishes.

The most successful matches were with the drier German wines. I found the non-German Rieslings too dry and lacking in mouthfeel for the food, notably when chilli and ginger were involved. A touch of sweetness helped caress and sooth the palate in the midst of all the spice.

The dishes were clearly selected to flatter the wines, so we enjoyed a lot of fish and seafood, as well beef, lamb and chicken dishes and as a house speciality, chargrilled quail with honey, garlic and spices.

It was tricky to keep track of the food, as an array of dishes kept on coming and it was sometimes hard to identify what was in front of me.

We started off with some colourful and vibrantly flavoured salads with tender shredded meat and stir-fried prawns with ginger and spring onion. A couple of spectacular fish main courses followed: whole crispy fried bream with lemongrass and chilli and steamed sea bass with ginger and spring onion. These dishes were perfectly suited to the wines and the youthful Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett 2010 and Urziger Würzgarten Kabinett 2010 both shone, particularly with the fried fish which contained some fresh dill which the Urziger loved.

Garlic, ginger and chilli featured throughout, with several appearances from lemongrass which chimed beautifully with some of the more mature wines, especially, given its age, Loosen’s startlingly lively and fragrant Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett 1975.

Trittenheimer Altächen Spätlese 1971 (Bischöfliches Priesterseminar) also showed beautifully with quince and musk flavours, yet with fresh, zippy acidity, although better for sipping on its own to savour its gorgeous, haunting complexity. A baby in comparison, J J Prüm’s Sonnenuhr Kabinett 1990 was the most adaptable wine of the evening.

What I found interesting wasn’t just the remarkable versatility of the Rieslings aromatically, but how their structure made a big difference. Compared with the other Rieslings, the German ones had appetisingly mouth-watering acidity and lower-alcohol levels and the combination of these two elements made them so much easier to drink.

Consequently, I found them a more refreshing accompaniment to the food – more palate cleansing, focused and exhilarating. It’s such a shame that foreign markets struggle with German wines, preventing us from enjoying them more often. (A simpler labelling system and more accurate indication of sweetness would certainly help sell these marvellous wines. See my post last year FB)

Lucy Bridgers attended the dinner as a guest of Bibendum Wines. She also has her own blog Wine, Food and other Pleasures


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