It’s been said that if it grows together, it goes together. Prosciutto has rosé. Roast lamb has Bordeaux reds. Each national food has its own filial wine to go with it. But what about pairing wine with sushi?
Japan seems orphaned in the realm of regional food and wine pairings. As far as sake goes, it is actually more akin to beer than wine. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a great choice for sushi, but it’s only part of a greater story. Sushi and wine can enjoy a gastronomical ecstasy if you’re willing to think outside the box.
So grab a glass and let’s get pairing!
Sushi: Beyond the Stereotypes
Sushi is arguably one of the most diverse foods out there. It’s unfair to apply sweeping generalizations to the fascinating food. Packed inside that roll is a world of untapped flavor waiting to be paired with the perfect wine.
Sushi is a complex food with dizzying layers of taste profiles. Weekend gastronomy warriors have unfairly perpetuated the stereotype that sushi is all fish and seaweed. True, for some of it. But this stereotypical flavor profile is just the tip of the iceberg.
A dizzying variety of flavors can be found in sushi, ranging from sweet and savory scallops to spicy tuna to creamy Philadelphia rolls. There’s no one-size-fits-all profile, which means the world is your oyster when it comes to pairing wine with sushi.
So let’s peel back the layers and find the best sushi wine pairing.
Pairing Sushi with Wine at a Glance
- Low tannin
- If we’re talking rolls dominated by nori (seaweed) and fresh vegetables, try pairing sushi with wine that’s acidic.
- Traditional sashimi and simple fish rolls are fish-forward, so you might consider a wine with low or no tannins.
- Sushi rolls topped with delicate and savory fish are best paired with an in-kind wine.
Things to Remember
- Generally speaking, opt for pairing sushi with wine bottled young.
- Wines bottled early undergo fermentation in the bottle, instilling light carbonation and uplifting effervescence.
- This subtle carbonation also cuts through heavier flavors associated with sushi, and serve as a palate cleanser as you journey through the sushi on your plate.
- Young wines tend to be fruity and floral, which is what you’ll want to look for when pairing sushi with wine.
A Note on Pairing Sushi with Wine
For the red wine die hard, pairing sushi and wine will be a bit of a dance.
- Red wine is naturally laden with tannins, which when paired with fish tastes like munching on steel wool.
- If red wine is a non-negotiable staple at the table, try to find something lighter in tannins.
- As an added safeguard, pair red wine with rolls rich in cream, such as a Philadelphia roll. Cream cheese and cream-based sauces are the perfect mediator between tannic red wine and fish.
- A Burgundy Pinot Noir is a great match for sushi, as it’s lower in tannin and more minerally than other Noirs.
- Another thing to consider is the acidity of soy sauce. Be mindful about pairing low-acid wines like Gewurztraminer with lots of soy sauce.
- This doesn’t mean you can’t indulge a drop or two on your favorite roll, but soy sauce-saturated sushi paired with a light-bodied wine might not bide well with the palate.
Stretched for time?
Here’s the cheater’s guide to pairing sushi with wine!
- Muscadet Sèvre et Maine
- Pinot Noir
- Pinot Grigio
- Pinot Gris (shrimp, lobster, scallops, crab)
- White port
2. Simple rolls (salmon, tuna, yellowtail, etc)
3. Spicy rolls
- Dry Riesling
And now the down low on some noteworthy sushi and wine pairings!
Types of Wine for Your Favorite Sushi
- This crisp, refreshing wine from northern Portugal is born of the sea.
- Its crisp citrusy notes tempered by refreshing mineral and salty finish make Albarino the iconoclastic seafood wine, so it’s a perfect first-go if you’re a newbie to pairing sushi with to pair wine.
- Albarino goes particularly well with tempura.
- This Australian wine exudes refreshingly spicy notes of white pepper, green peas, and citrus.
- The wine’s sharp acidity will play nicely with rolls light on fish flavor and heavy on fresh veggies and savory sauce.
- Grüner Veltliner’s acidity cuts through the richness of savory sauce and sticky rice, and compliments fresh veggies such as avocado and cucumber.
- Try it with a dragon roll or crab roll!
- Sparkling Prosecco delivers bright flavors of peach, citrus, and subtle sweetness.
- Prosecco goes well with the sticky rice used ubiquitously across the sushi spectrum.
- When a sweet and delicate meat is thrown into the mix, magic happens.
- The delicate sweetness of a scallop roll is a perfect match with Prosecco.
4. Pinot Noir
- Objectively, strong reds don’t play well with sushi.
- High tannins can easily turn your next bite of sushi into a mouthful of metal. But not to worry, lovers of all things red!
- A Burgundy Pinot Noir is there for the rescue! It has higher acidity and less sweetness than New World Noirs.
- It has a minerally taste unique to wines of the region, giving them a niche when pairing wine with sushi.
- Enjoy this red with simple fish rolls and sashimi.
- Rosé is already a beloved companion to seafood, so why stop at sushi?
- Think pink on pink, and pair it with rosé-tinted meats like tuna or salmon.
- Rosé boasts strawberries and minerally, fruit-forward goodness, so it’s perfect to pair with your favorite sushi.
- A dry variety won’t wilt beneath strong flavors nor domineer your palate.
- Fino or Manzanilla sherry has long been enjoyed with seafood.
- Fino and Manzanilla sherry are light-bodied and briny, perfect for pairing with intense flavors.
- Try it with Uni (sea urchin).
7. Dry Riesling
- Riesling’s sweetness and acidity subdues the heat of spicy rolls.
- Try it with a spicy tuna roll.
- Gewurztraminer has notes of ginger, so it’s a great option to clear the palate along with pickled ginger.
- Gewurztraminer’s residual sugar tones down the burn of wasabi and other spice, so have a glass on hand if things get too spicy.
- Gewurztraminer’s light sweetness and underlying strength makes it a great friend for sweet yet punchy meats.
- Try it with Unagi (freshwater eel).
That’s a wrap!
We hope you now know what wine to pair with your favorite sushi. If you have any queries, you can write them in the comments below and we will love to answer them all.
Thanks for reading!