When you think about pairing an alcohol with sushi, chances are pretty good that your mind immediately goes to Sake. This Japanese rice wine is a natural fit for obvious reasons, but it’s far from your only option. So how else can you pair that spicy tuna roll with flair? Read on…
Sparkle Shines Bright
Yes, it’s true. When it comes to the American wine pairing standards of sushi, sparkling wines tend to be the sommelier's first suggestion. It’s not without reason, though. A solid, dry sparkling wine will almost always complement the light flavors of most sushi rolls. In addition, sparkling wines are yeasty in flavor and served cold, which further accents the mild, sweet tendency of sushi rice. Perhaps the only issue arises when you try to find a sushi spot that stocks desirable sparkling wines. So if bubbles are your best friend, plan it around a sushi take out kind of night.
Far more common for sushi spots of choice are the standard red and white table wine options. And, let’s face it, you’re probably more likely to have a basic red or white in your home pantry as well. Turns out that when it comes to pairing sushi with basic house wines, far more important than the grape variety, is the fish variety. As soon as you’ve found a white that is the perfect match, you’ll stumble upon a red that sets the flavor of a spicy salmon roll off like nothing else. So, here’s a look at what fish goes with what basic house wine.
- Salmon- This one requires a dry wine to compliment a sweet fish. It’s no surprise that this thick, meaty fish commands a wine with legs of her own, so the drier the better. You’ll pair salmon rolls best with a dry Rose (think pink on pink!) or a dry Riesling (you’ll want to find a vintage from Germany or the Willamette Valley of Oregon). If you’re a lover of red wines, our pick is Pinot Noir.
- Tuna- Iconic in the sushi world, there is never a shortage of tuna rolls on the menu. This is another meaty, full bodied fish that demands a strong wine to hold court. Again, a dry Riesling is our first pick. That said, you can also find great success with the buttery, oak flavors of a Chardonnay. Red lovers should think about a liter, sweeter red; opt for a light bodied Pinot Noir over a Merlot.
- Unagi (Eel)- This roll shows off your flair for the exotic, so it’s no surprise that the wine you pair it with needs to be equally alluring. When served in a roll, Unagi is an explosion of spicy sauce and ginger, creating one heck of a flavor palate. We like to pair it with wines boasting tropical fruit flavors like pineapple, guava, and pear. You’re most likely to find these in a sweet Riesling.
- Hand Rolls- Sometimes you just prefer the flavor of the sea. Hand rolls boast an abundance of seaweed flavors, meaning that despite whatever is inside of the roll, you’re best suited to pair your wine to the flavor of the seaweed. Go for a soft, fruit based wine. Again, Pinot Noir reigns supreme in the sushi world. We also like a nice French Beaujolais. If it just has to be a white wine, you’re best suited to try a Sauvignon Blanc.
Of course, at the end of the day, there is only one wine pairing rule that you need to remember; enjoy your wine. If you’re not a fan of the suggested varieties, don’t drink them. Sushi is anything but a predictable experience, so feel free to pair your favorite wine with your favorite roll and see how it goes. If you’re enjoying it, then it’s the perfect pairing.