China / Life

Cognac and Cantonese cuisine

By Liu Zhihua In Guangzhou (China Daily) Updated: 2015-12-11 08:00

While most people around the world swill cognac between meals, Chinese often imbibe the quality brandy with food.

This has prompted LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton to release pairing principles for cognacs to complement Chinese cuisine through its "rediscovering Chinese taste" campaign initiated on Dec 3 in Guangdong province's capital, Guangzhou.

The French luxury-liquor giant invited celebrated Cantonese chefs and food critics to create a set menu of eight dishes for that day's tasting event, in cooperation with six prestigious Cantonese restaurants in the city.

Food-and-beverage critic He Weisheng tells China Daily the team spent over half a year visiting restaurants to develop the menu and pairing principles.

"In southern China, cognac is as popular as Moutai (a leading luxury brand of the traditional Chinese liquor, baijiu) in the north. Treating guests to dinner without cognac is just embarrassing for many people here," He says.

"Southerners like cognac because of its sweet aftertaste but even more so because cognac has rounder flavors and greater aromas compared with other spirits."

That makes it perfect to pair with Cantonese cuisine, which is distinguished by a light and slightly saccharine character, He says.

The different chemical reactions it has with different foods diversifies dining experiences, he explains.

That's part of the inspiration behind the pairing principles.

Hennessy V.S.O.P., for instance, goes best with strong flavors, such as fermented black garlic or fermented soybeans, or dishes dressed with ingredients such as chives. These foods will, in turn, change the drink's flavor.

Hennessey X.O. goes best with meaty Cantonese fare, or dishes prepared with orange peel, brine or oil-fried scallions, because this multilayered tipple exudes a sweet yet pungent aftertaste. And these foods, in turn, make the brandy rounder and more aromatic.

Hennessey Paradis goes well with seafood. The smooth and full-bodied brandy enhances the seafood's flavor, while the seafood's savoriness, in turn, brings out the brandy's fruitiness.

LVMH-Moet Hennessy Diageo China's managing director, Frederic Noyere, says the company chose to start the campaign in Guangzhou because its brandies first entered China through the city's ports in 1859.

China has become the company's No 2 market by value, after the United States, and he's confident the growing middle class and expansion in northern China will elevate the country's importance to the company's business.


 Cognac and Cantonese cuisine

These Cantonese dishes are among the eight on the set menu paired with cognac. The combination was created by a team of celebrated Cantonese chefs and food critics.


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