What is Shaoxing Wine?

What is Shaoxing Wine?


If you want to cook Chinese food that tastes exactly like the one in Chinese restaurants, then you need the right ingredients. Soy sauce, oyster sauce, dried mushrooms, sesame oil, and Sichuan peppercorns are essential, but one of the most critical Chinese ingredients is Shaoxing wine.

What does Shaoxing wine taste like? Shaoxing wine is strong and intensely flavored, vinegar-y, caramel-like, and packed with umami deliciousness. A little goes a long way, and it will take your Chinese cooking to new levels of tasty pleasure.

So, what is Shaoxing wine, anyway? Can you drink Shaoxing wine? Is Shaoxing wine the same as rice wine? Here are all your questions answered. 

After reading this, you’ll be an expert in Shaoxing wine, you’ll know all there is about it, and you’ll become a better cook. Let’s get started! We can taste that delicious wine already!



What is Shaoxing wine used for?

Shaoxing wine is a rice wine used to add depth of flavor to food. It is originally from the Shaoxing region in the eastern province of Zhejiang in China, and it’s widely used in mainland China. The amber-colored liquid often has around 16% alcohol, and it’s made with fermented rice and some wheat. The wine has been produced for centuries, and it’s part of the most ancient cooking traditions. 

It’s important to mention there are different qualities of Shaoxing wine; the ‘premier’ red wine is dry and can be quite enjoyable on its own before meals. Then there are sweeter categories with more sugar and less alcohol; each style has a purpose. 

Is Shaoxing wine the same as rice wine? Well, yes and no. Shaoxing wine is rice wine, but not all rice wines are Shaoxing. Other rice wines are mirin and other are Japanese styles.

As you see, Shaoxing wine is more than just a cooking ingredient; it’s a sipping wine and an apéritif as well, but it all depends on the style.

What is Shaoxing wine used for cooking?

When you encounter Shaoxing wine in a recipe, you’ll often see you need very little of it. A regular recipe can call for one of two tablespoons of the rich wine, and that’s enough to change the food’s profile entirely.

What can I use instead of Shaoxing rice wine? The best substitute for Shaoxing is dry Sherry, the Spanish fortified wine. They share nutty and vinous notes. They’re both alcoholic and really round up food, including stews, noodles, meat dishes, and stir-fries. 

Can I use white wine instead of Chinese cooking wine? You can, especially when cooking seafood or light dishes. When you’re cooking pork, chicken, or beef, you’ll want something stronger than that, because white wine will be too soft. You’ll often recognize a recipe with Shaoxing if it’s named drunken chicken, drunken shrimp, or drunken fish. You get the idea.

What is the best Chinese cooking wine? Pagoda Shaoxing Huadiao and Gold Plum Shaoxing Nuerhong are two popular wines for the category, but there are many others. Which Shaoxing wine is best? For Shaoxing wine, everyone has a favorite. Try different brands and see which one you like the most. The good news? Quality is quite high overall, so it’s hard to pick up a disappointing bottle. 

What is Shaoxing Rice Wine? Best Practices.

Does rice wine go bad? That’s an excellent question. It turns out Shaoxing Rice Wine has a long shelf-life. The concentration, the thickness, and especially the alcohol levels help the wine stay fresh for long, particularly if it’s sealed.

Once you open a bottle of Shaoxing Rice Wine, you’ll be able to cook with it anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Warm temperatures, heat, direct sunlight, and humidity can affect your wine rice quality, and since it’s a natural product, it will eventually go bad. 

If you’ve tried Shaoxing Rice Wine and didn’t enjoy it, chances are you tried a bottle past its prime. It’s not unusual for people to use the same bottle for months without realizing the freshness isn’t there anymore. Keep in mind it will take a long time for Shaoxing wine to become inedible, it can last for years, but the flavor intensity and the quality DO diminish with time. When in doubt, get yourself a new bottle and enjoy Shaoxing Wine as fresh as possible.


What is Shaoxing Wine?

As now you know, Shaoxing wine is many things. It’s a drink that wakes the appetite before a meal, and it’s an ingredient behind some of the most famous Chinese dishes. Shaoxing wine is also a tradition and part of the Chinese culture; it’s part of history and an heirloom for future generations. How to define something with such a long history as Shaoxing wine?


Are You Ready to Try Shaoxing Rice?

Now you’re in-the-know. Who would have guessed such a simple ingredient in such small quantities could make such a big difference? That’s the secret behind Chinese food, it’s all about balanced flavors, and sometimes a few teaspoons of rice wine can turn a good dish into a great wine.

Get yourself a bottle of Shaoxing wine and make some Chinese food. Invite your friends and family over and share your newfound knowledge; this is quite a conversation starter! We’re sure you’ll become a fan of the oriental drink in no time, and once you start cooking with it, you’ll take your cooking skills to a new level.


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