Finding Heaven: Pairing Italian Wine with Chinese Food at Lost Heaven

31st August 2018

Disclaimer: This was an invited dinner event, we ate and drank for free but were not paid to write this article.

Recently, I was invited to an Italian wine dinner held at Lost Heaven, the sprawling Yunnan-Burmese restaurant on The Bund. I was immediately intrigued. People struggle to pair wine with Asian flavors, and I am always interested in discovering new and unique wine pairings.

The set up for the night.

Fattoria Betti and Fattoria Caslabosco are Tuscan wineries from the Chianti area. The tasting featured eight of their wines, which were paired with four different courses. Each course featured two wines: one produced by Fattoria Betti and one produced by Fattoria Casalbosco.

Guido Betti, the owner of Fattoria Betti, and Eleonora Ciardi, the Managing Director of Fattoria Casalbosco, were in town to introduce their wineries and tell the stories of their wines.

The thing I liked about these Italian wineries is that they were willing to go outside of their comfort zones. They specifically requested NOT to do the tasting at an Italian restaurant, but wanted something more local instead. Italians can be very… what’s a nice way to say this? …very adamant about their food and wine traditions, so it was refreshing to see these companies think outside the box and try to make connections with the local cuisine.

The Yunnan folk cuisine at Lost Heaven celebrates ethnic groups from Yunnan, Burma and Tibet and their flavors feature generous amounts of indigenous herbs combined with sweet, spicy, sour and salty tastes, so it is definitely not what Italians are used to.

I must say, the results were brilliant!

First up: Fattoria Betti Bianco di Toscana Creto de’ Betti and Fattoria Casalbosco Dorato

Spring Rolls

I was pleasantly surprised! I’m not a big Chard fan – those buttery, oaky California-style Chardonnays just don’t do it me. These two Chardonnays both spent most of their time in stainless steel, giving them much crisper textures and flavors.

Fried Crab Cakes

That crispness and the light fruit cut right through the fried Crab Cakes and Shrimp Spring Rolls and refreshed the palate after each sip. I preferred the Creto de’ Betti, which has a more intense flavor, while I found the Dorato mild.

2nd course: Fattoria Betti Chianti Montalbano DOCG and Fattoria Casalbosco Chianti Riserva DOCG

Burmese Flavoured Shrimp Salad

Here’s a bold choice: red wine and seafood. On paper, this pairing shouldn’t make sense, but in practice, I think it works. If you’re going to pair a red wine with seafood, look for light-bodied reds with more pronounced fruit flavors. The Burmese Flavor Shrimp Salad has bright and tart, acidic flavors, which were complimented nicely by the fresh, bright red fruit flavors of these lighter bodied Chiantis.

Main courses: Fattoria Betti Rosso di Toscana IGT Prunideo and Fattoria Casalbosco Orchidea  

Signature Da Li Chicken

This is a tricky pairing, since we had several mains with lots of flavors going on: Mt. Ka-la Grilled Pork, with a sweet and spicy sauce; Lost Heaven’s signature Da Li Style Chicken with Chili and Green Onions, which is full of pungent herbs and green onion, but despite the chili, not too spicy; and Huayao Dai style Sauteed Beef Tenderloin, also featuring an abundance of fresh herbs.

Mt Ka La Grilled Pork

The Orchidea has sweet, spicy flavors of cinnamon and clove, which can match well with the sweeter notes of the pork, and the light tobacco nose can pair with the beef. This wine also has softer tannins – firmer tannins might otherwise overwhelm the herbs and green onions.

Fattoria Betti’s Prunideo is a deliciously full-bodied and tannic wine, with earthy aromas and coffee notes. The earthiness is a nice contrast to the sweeter flavors of the mains, but its bold spice and strong tannins can fight with the herbs and the bite of the green onion.

Dessert: Fattoria Betti Rosè IGT Caprone and Fattoria Casalbosco Vinsanto 

I admit that sweet wines are not my favorite. However, Casalbosco’s Vinsanto, made with 100% Trebbiano grapes, is lovely and warm, with notes of raisins and dried fruit, honey and almonds. The rosè from Betti was more of a contrasting pairing, bringing acidity, minerality and fresh red fruit flavors.

Pumpkin Cakes

All the flavors match, albeit in different ways, with Lost Heaven’s fried Pumpkin Cakes. The pumpkin and raisiny vinsanto combination brings to mind autumnal flavors – almost making me think of Thanksgiving! I’d also love to pair this wine with some strong blue cheese. Meanwhile, the acidity of the rosè offsets the fried dessert nicely, and I enjoyed the less-sweet and refreshing combination of this wine as well.

Thank you to Lost Heaven, Fattoria Betti and Fattoria Casalbosco for a delicious and eye-opening evening of wine pairings.

Author: Michelle Erickson

Michelle Erickson is a lifelong epicurean. She got her start 10 years ago as co-founder of Chicago Food Whores, a food blog based in the great city of Chicago. Now a freelance food and beverage writer in Shanghai, she tirelessly researches the city’s dynamic culinary scene by eating and drinking everything in sight. Michelle’s favorite thing to make for dinner is reservations.

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