The right wine for Chinese takeout will complement flavors as varied as crispy fried egg rolls, silken stir-fried pea pods, salty soy, sweet and spicy hoisin, sweet and sour pork, and just plain spicy Manchurian beef.
The long answer: Look for wine with acidity to weave through fat and oil; a wine with ripe fruit to bridge flavors and to cool spicy heat; a wine that doesn't fight for the spotlight, but supports its food co-star.
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• Suggested retail and availability: About $24; widely, including wine and spirits chains (distributed by Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois, Bolingbrook)
White wine lovers can add richness and exotic spiciness to Asian dishes with Gewurztraminer (geh-WURZ-tram-ee-ner). Trimbach's is one of the world's most renowned, with beckoning aromas of orange blossom, lychee and white pepper, plush texture and not-bone-dry flavors of spiced fruit and minerals that develop in complexity on the palate. Serve with richly flavored dishes, including sausages, barbecued anything and Peking duck.
The short answer: Pick Beaujolais.
France's Beaujolais (Boe-jszoe-LAY) region produces its red wine in a range of quality and price levels to satisfy most palates and pocketbooks.
The casual styles -- Nouveau Beaujolais, Beaujolais AOC and Beaujolais-Villages -- and are readily available at liquor and grocery chains, about $10. The top style -- Beaujolais Cru -- is the pride of fine wine shops, from about $15 to $25.
Beaujolais' red grape is Gamay (gam-MAY). Nicknamed "jammy gammy", well-made Gamay gives wine with enticing violet and lilac aroma, juicy berry flavor, supple texture and refreshing acidity.
Nouveau Beaujolais is light and grapy, the newest wine of France's harvest and herald of quality to come. Released on the third Thursday in November, Nouveau should be drunk up by Thanksgiving or it quickly morphs to Old-veau.
Beaujolais AOC is grown throughout the region to fill carafes at French bistro's at home and abroad. The cost and duration of shipping outweighs the wine's potential, so enjoy Beaujolais AOC at its freshest during your next trip to France.
Beaujolais-Villages offers quality and value, blending the crop from thirty-eight select villages. Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages, for instance, consistently wins "best buy" accolades for cherry and spice flavor with plush texture and firm acid, for about $11. Look for the very decent 2010 or the excellent 2011 vintage, but no older for Villages.
To raise your takeout to a gourmet treat, ask your wine merchant to recommend a Beaujolais Cru (crew). Nestled within a 24-mile area, the 10 designated Cru villages offer unique and superlative expressions of Beaujolais and are considered some of the best values in today's wine world.
The lightest Cru are Brouilly, Regnie and Chiroubles, with silky texture, cranberry, herb and cherry flavors with mineral accents. Drink within three years of the vintage.
The Cru's Cotes de Brouilly, Fleurie and St. Amour exchange silk for satin texture, adding earthy complexity to berry and herb flavors. Peaking between one and four years of age, look for the superlative 2009 and 2011 vintages.
Chenas, Julienas, Morgon and Moulin-a-Vent balance elegance with rusticity, with inky fruit, herb, game meat and savory flavors, concentrated texture and caressing finish. At best between four and 10 years of harvest, 2009 will offer youthful expression. Only with absolute confidence in your merchant (and a spare bottle at the ready), choose the previous great vintage -- 2005.
Reserve these rich Cru for meaty Chinese dishes or for rich, Asian-inspired recipes, such as plank-grilled salmon glazed with soy sauce.
• Write to Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.