Sushi and wine make an excellent pairing once you know what you’re doing. This delicate Japanese cuisine has been enjoyed for many years in Western countries. While you might instinctively pair sushi with sake, there are plenty of exciting wine pairing options that are equally delightful.
Below, we share tips on how to pair wine with sushi and the best wine with sushi pairing options that you can try with this diverse Japanese cuisine.
What to Look For When Pairing Wine With Sushi
The best wine with sushi is one that matches the dish’s simplicity and delicate nature. Various cooking styles, ingredients and flavours are used in sushi making. When approaching a sushi wine pairing, you must first look at the dish’s components to ascertain which type of wine would make a good pairing.
Once you have done that, it is essential to look at the following elements of wine: acidity, texture, body, tannin and aromatic profile.
The main ingredient of sushi and sashimi is raw fish or seafood. Depending on the type of fish used, you will need to be mindful of acidity. A wine with high acidity should be paired with fatty fish such as salmon or bluefin tuna. The wine’s acidity cuts through the fattiness of the fish as well as cleanses the palate for the next bite. Pacific yellowtail or snapper, for example, is lighter, so pair best with a wine with slightly less acidity.
Texture and Body
Subtlety is key to a successful sushi wine pairing. A wine that is too bold in profile or lacks crispness can unbalance the pairing. For body, stick to light-bodied wines that complement the richness of the fish. In this instance, because most sushi is delicate yet flavorful, a light-bodied wine that has a complex profile with a good acidic backbone like a good Pinot Noir or Riesling makes sense.
The texture is also essential to keep in mind. Different styles of sushi will offer different textures. For example, Japanese uni is known for its creamy texture. You can use the pairing principle of ‘like with like’ but even between would be a contrast pairing such as a dry sparkling wine to highlight the dish’s texture and richness.
Lastly, you need to think about aromas and flavours. Although sushi is designed as a ‘one-bite’ dish, each mouthful is packed with flavour. Additionally, the condiments you use, such as soy sauce and wasabi, will impact your choice of wine. If you prefer sushi options on the spicier side, pair them with a crisp, citrus-forward Riesling or Prosecco to balance the heat.
A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is also a delightful pairing. Its citrus and grassy characteristics will complement the fresh aromas of sushi while also neutralizing the salty flavours of soy sauce.
Best Wine With Sushi: Pairing Options
The best wine with sushi can be one of several options depending on your choice of sushi. Whether you are a fan of sweet wines, dry wines or bubbles, there is a choice for you. Based on the wine pairing principles above, we share our recommendations for the best wine to pair with sushi.
Best White Wine With Sushi
When choosing a white wine, it is best to stick to wines with high acidity and are light and crisp. Keeping flavours in mind, you might select a mineral white wine like a Raimat Albarino 2021 to complement the maritime nature of fish and seaweed. An Albarino’s citrusy notes will also provide the right amount of acidity and flavour balance for prawn tempura.
The crispness and sweetness of a dry Riesling is the perfect companion to fiery chilli-flavoured sushi. Another great choice is an unoaked Chardonnay such as the Domaine Dampt Chablis 2019. Offering a lively finish and notes of green apple and fresh lemon, the minerality of this wine pairs perfectly with most shellfish.
Best Red Wine With Sushi
The best wine with sushi should be light in body and tannin structure. When pairing red wine, choose a Pinot Noir such as Domaine Thenard Givry Cellier aux Moines 2017 is best for pairing with fatty fish such as salmon. Its minerality and fruity aromas are robust enough to enhance the sushi dish without overpowering it.
A Gamay from Beaujolais is another excellent pairing option. Gamays tend to be juicy yet mild and light in tannins. This red wine pairs wonderfully with unagi and black cod. On the other hand, you might consider a Zweigelt. This medium-bodied and fruit-forward Austrian wine pairs beautifully with tuna, especially tuna sashimi.
Out of the Box Sushi Wine Pairing Ideas
Looking for inspiration for your next sushi night? At The Small Winemakers Collection, our team of wine agents have had their say and shared their top out of the box sushi wine pairing ideas:
- Aburi Style Sushi (Torched Sushi) with Aged Champagne: Flambéing the fish and rice adds extra aromatic complexity to this dish. The best wine with sushi that has been made in this style is an aged Champagne. Pairing with a Champagne will achieve a full expression of the texture and aromas of the fish.
- Tempura and Gruner Veltliner: Tempura is a delightfully crispy and lightly deep-fried Japanese dish that many adore. As it is considered a slightly more ‘greasy’ option than traditional sushi, it is best paired with a white wine high in acidity. A Gruner Veltliner’s sharp bite will cut through the oiliness of the tempura, while its citrus and herbaceous flavours will cleanse the palate.
- Uni with Fino Sherry: Considered the foie gras of seafood, uni offers a wonderfully sweet, mildly nutty and salty flavour. Its texture has often been compared to that of ice cream. These traits mean uni can be slightly more intense in taste. That’s why pairing with a Fino Sherry that matches the dish’s briny salinity is a match made in culinary heaven.
The best wine with sushi, in our opinion, is one that allows you to entirely escape into the world of Japanese cuisine while experimenting with Old World and New World wines. For more recommendations, browse our wine selection or contact our team of Ontario wine agents at The Small Winemakers Collection today. Here’s to your next great glass.