Hairy crab season has just started in Hong Kong and it's well underway in Shanghai, where the crustaceans can be seen in restaurant tanks across the city. While its meat is almost worthless, connoisseurs prize the crustacean for its rich, creamy, sweet roe. Hairy crab is traditionally served with vinegar for a sweet-sour contrast. The best wines to drink with hairy crab also need to provide a contrast, but, of course, in more subtle ways.
Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage 2002, Epernay, France
Rich and elegant, full yet weightless, and with phenomenal length. It's a great match with hairy crab- the creamy gas helps extend the sticky texture of the roe. The refreshing acidity plays a similar role to the vinegar by providing contrast.
Available for HK$510 at Moet Hennessy Diageo (tel: 2976 1111)
Charles Melton Rose of Virginia 2010, Barossa Valley, Australia
It's difficult to categorise the flavour of hairy crab: it's almost meat-like in intensity but- being a freshwater species- it has little of that typical seafood freshness that makes a white wine pairing so obvious. The intensities of this rose, however, are perfectly level and the flavour spectrums of the combination make each component shine. The wine's acidity gives the flavour of the crab even more depth.
Available for HK$179 at Oliver's (tel: 2869 5119)
Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2010, South Australia
A heady perfume and a reasonable price. The wine provides pleasure to the nose while the crab gives the palate something to think about. It's a strangely workable combination, with the wine's exotic nose enhancing the overall experience. The wine's fresh, gentle acidity perfectly extends the sweetness of the roe.
Available for HK$117 from Fine Vintage (tel: 2896 6108)
Simon Tam is Christie's head of wine, China. Flavour Colours, his iPhone Chinese food and wine pairing app, can be found on www.iwinecentre.com/iwine-en/flavour-colours.php