Lunar New Year is approaching, and this year marks the advent of the Year of the Dragon. It's the time to wish for prosperity and good fortune and, of course, to gather with family for delicious feasts. Celebrated by millions across Asia and beyond, this joyous occasion is steeped in rich history and cultural significance. From the vibrant red lanterns lining the streets to the rhythmic beats of traditional dragon dances, Lunar New Year is a time for families to come together. For non-Asians, it presents an opportunity to discover new cultures and traditions.

Lunar New Year is the most important celebration in many Asian cultures. (Photo: Rumman Amin,

Whether Lunar New Year is an integral part of your culture, or you plan to celebrate it with friends and order your favorite Chinese takeout, the perfect wine pairings will light up your celebration.

What’s on the Table of Lunar New Year Feast

Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is celebrated by various East Asian communities across the globe, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and many others. The festival marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring, symbolizing renewal and the promise of a fresh start.

The centerpiece of the Lunar New Year celebration is the dinner held on the eve of the Lunar New Year, known as "Chu Xi" in Chinese. This term signifies "cleaning," signifying the sweeping away of bad luck from the previous year to make room for good luck in the new year. The Lunar New Year dinner table is a visual spectacle, typically adorned with an array of dishes that fill the entire table. The traditional Lunar New Year dishes have symbolic meanings in good luck, prosperity, and happiness for the upcoming year.

In many households, the Lunar New Year feast includes an assortment of dishes, ranging from cold dishes and vegetarian options to fish, chicken, duck, and various meats. Traditionally, wine has not been a part of the Lunar New Year dinner table. However, with the evolving wine culture and the preferences of wine enthusiasts, let's explore some classic Lunar New Year dishes and their wine pairings.

The celebration of Lunar New Year starts with a family dinner of the eve of the Lunar New Year’s day. (Photo: Midjourney, prompt by Sylvia Ba)

Dim Sum, Dumplings, and Spring Rolls

The popular choice of Chinese takeout is also a highlight of the Lunar New Year dinner. Particularly favored in Cantonese-speaking regions, Dim Sum features various bite-sized savory delights. Dumplings and spring rolls, essential in almost all East Asian countries, are not only delicious but also hold symbolic importance. The round shape of dumplings symbolizes wealth and completeness, while spring rolls, resembling gold bars, signify prosperity. A refreshing, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough or a Prosecco with a hint of residual sugar is the perfect match for these savory dishes. The fruitiness complements the savory flavors, and the crisp acidity cuts through the richness.


Chicken Dishes

As the Chinese say, "there's no feast without chicken." The word for chicken in Chinese, "ji," sounds similar to the word for auspicious, making it an auspicious dish for the Lunar New Year. There are various cooking methods for chicken dishes in Asia, but traditionally for Lunar New Year, it's the whole chicken dishes, often served with the head and feet intact, that symbolize completeness and family unity. For a delightful pairing, opt for a semi-aromatic white wine with a bit of body, such as a Pinot Gris from Alsace or Columbia Valley, a Rhone Valley white blend, or a Burgundy Chardonnay with a touch of oak to complement the tender and flavorful chicken.


Steamed Fish

A whole fish is a must-have on the Lunar New Year table, symbolizing abundance and surplus. The Chinese word for fish, "yu," sounds like the word for surplus, making it a symbol of prosperity. Steamed fish, often served with green onion, ginger, and soy sauce, is a delicate and flavorful dish. The perfect match for this delicate, savory, and slightly pungent dish would be an aromatic or herbaceous white wine with spicy, wild herbal notes. A dry Gewürztraminer, a white Bordeaux blend, or, for more adventurous wine lovers, a Moschofilero from Peloponnese in Greece are the ideal choices.


Peking Duck

Like chicken, duck is also an indispensable dish for the Lunar New Year. Although various regions in Asia boast different ways of preparing duck, including braised duck and duck stew, the most famous one is Peking Duck. Known for its crispy skin and succulent meat, Peking Duck has roots dating back to the imperial era of China. Today, it stands as one of the most renowned Chinese dishes, often reserved for special occasions.

A classic pairing for Peking Duck involves a medium-bodied red wine with earthy characteristics, such as Pinot Noir or Merlot. For Italian wine lovers, Rosso di Montalcino and Etna reds are also ideal choices, offering a bit more acidity and tannins to balance the richness of the duck skin.


Pork Dishes

Pork is a popular ingredient in Lunar New Year celebrations, symbolizing wealth and abundance. Dishes like braised pork belly or sweet and sour pork ribs are cherished in Asian households during Lunar New Year dinners. Typically, pork dishes are rich and savory. To balance the indulgence of these dishes, consider pairing them with a bold and spicy Zinfandel or a Grenache. The robust flavors of the wine will harmonize seamlessly with the savory notes of the pork, resulting in a delightful combination.


For those seeking a white wine pairing, orange wines prove to be an excellent choice with pork dishes. With skin contact maceration, orange wines has more body and some tannins to better pair with meat dishes, which normal white wines lack. Additionally, the skins impart the wine with distinct orange peel, spicy, and savory notes that complement pork dishes exceptionally well.

If you're up for something interesting, consider exploring orange Rkatsiteli from Georgia aged in Quevri or an orange Ribolla Gialla from the Friuli region in northern Italy. Both options offer a unique and complementary for Lunar New Year pork dishes.


Rice Cake

Sticky rice cakes, known as Nian Gao in Chinese and Tteokbokki in Korean, are a Lunar New Year dish symbolizing growth, advancement, and the promise of a better year ahead. There are several versions of rice cakes; they can be stir fried, as the spicy Korean variation, or in some places, served as a dessert.

Pair them with a slightly sweet wine boasting refreshing acidity and prominent fruit characters, such as an off-dry or late-harvest Riesling, an off-dry Chenin Blanc, or the crowd-pleaser, a Moscato d'Asti. This pairing aims to enhance the sweetness and savoriness of the rice cake, creating a delightful contrast.


Dear VinoVossers, are you ready to celebrate the Year of the Dragon? Let the Lunar New Year festivities be a time of joy, unity, a wish for prosperity, and an exploration of amazing traditional Asian food paired with excellent wines. Wishing you a year filled with prosperity, good health, and auspicious moments!

Sylvia Ba

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