Treating yourself to a night out at a top sushi restaurant is possibly on your list of favorite things to do. You might however still be searching for the best drink to complement your meal.
Everyone you speak to will have a different opinion on the matter. Some might suggest beer while others will stick to a more traditional rice wine. But, what if you’re a wine person? Can you successfully pair wine with sushi?
While many sushi aficionados will attempt to steer you away from pairing wine with sushi, siting overpowering and contrasting flavors as the reason. But, just how true is this? And, if you decide to drink wine, does it matter which type? How will you know which option will complement rather than contrast your meal?
Should You Pair Wine with Sushi?
Let’s face it, some drinks just don’t go well with certain food choices. While others work so well together that it makes you think they were designed that way!
Many seafood aficionados might tell you that red wine is a bad match for any sushi platter. The reason for this has to do with the high tannin levels in red wine. However, wine lovers shouldn’t be discouraged!
The good news is, there are wines, both white and red, that will work perfectly with your sushi dish. The trick is to know which types of sushi to pair with which wines to accentuate your flavor expectations.
Wine and Sushi – How to Pair Them Correctly
Sushi is made with a whole host of different ingredients, each with its own unique flavor. A range of spicy sauces adds more tantalizing flavors to the dish. These combinations of flavors combined with a wine that’s too acidic or too sweet could end up ruining your dining experience.
A Few Basic Sushi and Wine Principles
When it comes to wine, there are a few tips you should consider. Let’s review a few of them.
- Always pair raw fish with white, sparkling or even Rose wines.
- In general, stronger red wines have a higher tannin level which adds a bitter taste in combination with sushi.
- Whiter, lighter wines have a greater acidity, making them a much better option to prevent a sharp bitter taste contrast.
- Avoid any wine that’s too sweet as that will overpower the tangy sauces often added to sushi dishes.
- If your sushi platter has a variety of fish with different flavors, you might want to opt for a white wine with a floral or fruity hint.
- Fatty fish types such as salmon will pair best with a dry white.
- Generally, white fish is served with a white wine with woody notes.
Types of Wines to Pair with Different Types of Sushi
As with wine, there are a wide variety of sushi dishes. The different flavors in sushi require specific wines to complement the flavors. Some of the more popular options are listed below.
The Traditional Option
Many people who enjoy sushi prefer to go the whole nine yards and pair it with traditional rice wine. Commonly referred to as Sake (pronounced sah-Kay), this traditional Japanese wine is made with fermented rice.
Unlike other wines, sake can be enjoyed hot or cold, depending on your personal preference. With its clean, sweet taste it adds a fruity and nutty flavor to any seafood dish.
White Wine Options
Anyone wishing to pair wine with sushi will do well to consider a few choice white wine options. White wine choices are the preferred option because of their diverse aromas and fruity tastes. Some of the most popular choices are listed below.
One of the more popular dishes on your sushi platter is grilled eel. Since eel is usually smoked and caramelized, you’ll want a white wine such as Gruner Veltliner that cuts through the rich fish taste.
Gruner Veltliner is a perfect pairing for dragon (cucumber and avocado) and unagi (eel) rolls because of its zesty grapefruit, lime and white pepper notes.
Some sushi rolls have a chili, spicy bite to them. For these types of rolls, you’d want to opt for a wine that has a sweet flavor to even out the spicy heat. Spicy food lovers will agree, a dry Riesling is an ideal match.
A sushi platter is never complete without some deep-fried, exquisitely tasting tempura. To enjoy your tempura without overwhelming the flavor, you’d do best to opt with a light-bodied choice such as Sauvignon Blanc.
Fancy a chopped scallop roll? Then you’ll Definity need to wash it down with a wine that offers a sweet, somewhat fruity flavor. A good option is the lemony essence you’d get from a Prosecco. Since scallop rolls are usually sweet with a touch of spice, a Prosecco will easily cut through that flavor combination.
Why not combine a delicious Greek wine with your platter? Santorini Assyrtiko wine is popularly known as a good match for most seafood dishes. With its flavorful notes of beeswax, white flowers and citrus it’s an ideal choice for sashimi or yellow-tail.
The subtle lemon, green pea and lime flavors offered by a tasty Albarino provides the perfect amount of acidity to balance any prawn tempura on your sushi platter. If you have a deep-fried Panko, Albarino gives you an exceptional taste balance.
Rose Wine Options
If Rose is your preferred wine choice, there are a few options you can consider to complement your sushi platter.
In addition to a few sushi rolls, you might be in the mood for some vegetarian maki. A lighter bodied Rose is a perfect option. Crunchy asparagus, cucumber or even avocado rolls taste so much better with a light-bodied dry Rose as a pairing!
The area of Provence is well known for two things – Rose wine and scrumptious seafood. It makes sense then that these two flavors were designed to go together!
The creamy, robust crab and avocado flavor from a California roll really comes to life when paired with the bone dry, strawberry-filled Provencal Rose. This Rose will give your sushi dish a crisp edge on an otherwise fishy taste.
Is There a Red Wine Option?
Red wine lovers don’t have to feel left out. While a heavy red will give most sushi fish types a metallic taste, there is one you can opt for.
Pinot Noir is a light-bodied red offering a mild tannin. The best option is a Red Burgundy cultivated in a cool climate region. It’s the perfect match for a dish made up of tuna and salmon. You might want to take it easy on the soy sauce with your sushi dish to avoid a sharp, bitter taste with your wine.
Sherry drinkers will be delighted to know there are options for them as well! There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a glass of sherry with your favorite sushi dish!
Aburi sushi is a tasty flame-seared fish. Usually, the chef will use a hand-held blow torch and bamboo charcoal to char the top of the fish to give it that famous nutty smoked flavor.
With that in mind, the dry, nutty flavor offered by an Amontillado Sherry is by far the best option to enhance your flavor experience!
If you’ve ever combined uni (sea urchin) with the briny Manzanilla Sherry you’ll know it’s a match made in heaven! Since uni has a nutty, smooth flavor the salinity offered by this particular Sherry is the secret to the wonderful pairing!
Can You Pair Sparkling Wines with Sushi?
Sparkling wines such as champagne aren’t just best suited to festivities. Since sparkling wines have a much lower tannin, they are the ideal choice to pair with sushi. The trick is to choose a sparkling wine that’s not too sweet.
Since champagne is usually the most subtle of wines, it accentuates the mixtures of a sushi platter. A good example would be a Blanc de Blanc which pairs very well with a host of different seafood dishes, which includes sushi and scallops.
If you’re a wine lover who loves the occasional sushi platter, there’s no reason why you can’t combine the two! While many people prefer to keep it traditional and pair their sushi platter with rice wine, the good news is, you can opt for one of your personal favorites.
Depending on the dish you’ve chosen, the good news is there is a variety of white, red or Rose wines to choose from. The more you experiment with the options we’ve shared, the more likely you are to find the perfect pairing to give you a palate a heavenly experience!