Perfect Match

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 May, 2006, 12:00am

Some of the most interesting Asian dishes combine meat and seafood on the same plate. For this reason, the time-honoured European rule of red wine with red meat is often obsolete in these parts. Take the humble Vietnamese grilled beef salad. The best result comes from using ordinary cuts of meat rather than prime fillet. The meat is sliced thinly against the muscle grain to break up the tough meat fibres. It's quickly char-grilled to preserve the flavourful meat juices. A European cooking style for the same cut may produce more intense stews, which would then demand hefty, tannic reds.

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2001, Martinborough, New Zealand

There are only a few truly great pinot noirs made within Burgundy, and even fewer elsewhere. This Ata Rangi is compulsory tasting for any aspiring Pinot-phile. It's about one-tenth the price of the greatest Domaine Romanee-Conti bottlings, with about half their complexity and sensual textures. It's a perfect match with Vietnamese grilled beef salad. The aromatic and crunchy shallots, garlic and chilli heighten the wine's solid, concentrated base fruit. The oak barrel handling flavours are extended into a new dimension by the charred meat notes. In hugely concentrated vintages, this Ata Rangi may even overpower the beef salad.

Available for $550 from Altaya (tel: 2523 1945)

Chassagne Montrachet

2003, Maison Champy,

Burgundy, France

The brother-sister townships of Chassagne and Puligny are just above the mid-point town of Santenay in the heart of Burgundy. Wines from these two villages together with that from the Meursault appellation further north produce some of the most interesting chardonnays in the world. This Champy Chassagne is excellent with Vietnamese beef salad. The intensities of both food and wine are compatible and almost equally complex. The added note of citrus fruit in the Chassagne serves to brighten the beef's sweetness and the herb's liveliness. Also serve this Chassagne Montrachet with Vietnamese sugar cane prawns.

Available for $517 from Fine Vintage (tel: 2896 6108)

Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 2003, Western Australia

You can find chardonnay anywhere, but there are few places that can produce a truly classy drop. If the growing climate is too warm, the chardonnay becomes a hefty blob of sickly pineapple syrup. If the weather is too cold, the wine tends to be thin, acidic and neutral at best. The Cape Mentelle vineyards are in sun-drenched Australia, but benefit from cooling sea breezes. It's complex and rich in tropical fruity chardonnay flavours. The length of fruit flavours and balanced oak linger on with the Vietnamese beef salad flavours. The wine's natural acidity also gives a refreshing edge on a summery day in the tropics.

Available for $389 from Riche Monde (tel: 2976 1888)