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Wine with Sushi


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Ok, its my first day on the forum, and I'm already going to stir up trouble.

I am a Sushi snob, I'll admit that up front. Once I discovered the real thing in Los Angeles (Sushi-Sushi on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, Shige is a MASTER), I can't eat supermarket sushi or sushi from a Korean restaurant. SO, this pairing only works with the good stuff, dont bother with inferior sushi. Now, for years, the thought of wine and sushi was about as useless as wine with Mexican food (there are only 2 proper pairings for Mexican food - Margaritas and Beer).

So, last visit to LA, my best friend there, a crazy Wine Snob lawyer with an amazing palate and curmudgeonly attitude meets me for Sushi dinner bearing a wine bag. His first words "Trust me"...and pulls out a bottle of German Riesling Auslese and a Clos des Epeneaux '96 from Comte Armand. (I can't remember the Riesling other than it was from a great producer from 2002, since we both drank all of both bottles!) Trust me, I was as sceptical as Michael Moore at a Bush rally.... I only went along since I've known him for fifteen years and he has yet to steer me wrong when it comes to wine.

The Riesling was a wonderful complex flinty, clean wine with just that slight light fruit tone and was amazing with the lighter first courses. But when we got to the Pommard with the main meal, WOW. The interplay of the Chu-Toro and the Burg was amazing. The tobacco, black cherry and violet nose of the wine just sang with the clean sea breeze and beefiness of the Tuna and was in perfect harmony of the eel and when Shige put the blowtorch to the Toro Tuna, the combination was again perfect.

Now, the caveats here are that the Sushi MUST be the real Japanese style done by a pro, the Riesling must be from a superior producer and an auslese or halb-troken and the burg should be a softish complex one with a bit of age. Sadly none of these come cheap, (the sushi "Omakase" meal was $75 EACH alone) but I can guarantee that if you LIKE sushi and love wine, it will be worth the cost and effort.



"When I lived in Paris, and champagne was relatively cheap, I always enjoyed a half-bottle in the middle of the morning and another half-bottle at six or so in the evening. It did me a tremendous amount of good." - Gerald Hamilton.
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Welcome, RobInAustin -- glad to have you aboard!

And don't think you are stiring up trouble at all -- I have long been an advocate of Alsatian-style Gewürtraminers (low residual sugar) with sushi.

I have eaten at Sushi Sushi on Beverly, but preferred the hole-in-the-wall sushi joints in Gardena better (specifically Sen Nari on Western). I was usually the only American white chick at the bar and because of my frequency at eating there, the sushi knew me and were always glad when I showed up -- with Gewürtz in hand to share with them!

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Now everything makes sense. It was Paul Wasserman, Becky's son, who turned my LA buddy onto the pairing!!

"When I lived in Paris, and champagne was relatively cheap, I always enjoyed a half-bottle in the middle of the morning and another half-bottle at six or so in the evening. It did me a tremendous amount of good." - Gerald Hamilton.
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Not too long ago, Fat Guy posted about having Burgundy with sushi:


After reading that article, I tried it, too.

It sounds odd but, with some sushi, it works very well, indeed.

Best, Jim

Burgundy and sushi certainly seems more outside the box than a riesling or gewurtz with sushi.

Sushi Ko here in Washington, DC advocates this pairing. My fiancee and I tried it a couple of months back and it was mind-opening. Here is what Sushi-Ko says about why they pair burgundies with sushi:

Japanese Cuisine of Subtraction

Why Sushi-Ko is pairing Burgundies Wines with Japanese Food

Washington, D.C - Sushi-Ko Restaurant's food preparation philosophy Cuisine of Subtraction.

According to Daisuke Utagawa, partner and creative director, subtraction allows chefs to

reveal the essence of each ingredient in its most honest yet refined state. By subtetly combining

ingredients, a taste sensation created that demonstrates thecomplexity and beauty of nature for

the eye and the palate

"I believe this Cuisine of Subtraction philosophy is embedded in Japanese culture," says

Daisuke Utagawa. "In contrast, addition is the philosophy of classic French cuisine. The

finest raw materials are combined to create a flavorful sum that is greater than its individual


A fine example of subtraction on the Sushi-Ko menu is the Tataki of Amaebi (Chopped

Sweet Shrimp with Beluga Caviar.) This particular caviar provides just the perfect amount

of natural salt to bring out the Japanese sixth flavor known as "Umami" of the shrimp.

If soy sauce is added it kills this delicate flavor.

Pairing Burgundy wines with Japanese foods is yet another application of Utagawa's

Cuisine of Subtraction. He believes that the Burgundy wines Sushi-Ko has assembled

share a unique affinity for the cuisine Sushi-Ko creates. The Burgundy growers and

winemakers represented on the restaurant's wine list approach their craft in a manner

similar to the finest Japanese chefs.

Their commitment is to achieve honest and refined expressions of beauty through the nurturing and

selection process that best characterizes their region. Like Japanese chefs, these French

grower/winemakers strive to remove or avoid elements in their winemaking process that obscure

or diminish the quality of the fruit.

After a decade of experience savoring the wines of Burgundy with a variety of Japanese foods,

Daisuke Utagawa discovered something important: they tasted wonderful together, often profoundly.

The tannins in the red Burgundy (usually exclusive to the pinot noir grape) combine well with the

sixth flavor, "Umami," found in a variety of raw seafood. The Umami of the raw fish cancels the tannins

of the wine and allows the flavors of the fruit to flourish. Simultaneously, the tannins of the wine give

definitive shape to the illusive flavors of the Umami.

This subtraction culinary direction stems from Daisuke Utagawa's boyhood exposure to Ikebana,

the art of Japanese flower arranging, by his great aunt. An Ikebana practitioner taking an object

of nature, perhaps a quince branch, and examines it in great detail to understand the essence and

uniqueness of its beauty. Then unnecessary components are trimmed away so that main element

can be positioned to highlight its beauty. Next, a single visual point, such as a flower, is added to

enhance the goodness and composition. "Ikebana translates well to Sushi-Ko's Japanese cooking,"

says Utagawa.

In November 1999, April 2000, and November 2000, Utagawa and his culinary team from Sushi-Ko

prepared a special lunch in the Village of Bouilland, France for a group of wine producers. They will

return in October 2002 to create another unique feast. Utilizing the 17th century home of Becky

Wasserman-Hone and Russell Home, and armed with fresh produce from Paris, Utagawa's goal is

to showcase the compatibility of Japanese cuisine with French wines. Each of the winegrowers

brings their favorite label, all red pinot noirs, and Daisuke Utagawa is given the liberty of pairing the

wines with his cuisine. The results continue to be highly appreciated. The marriage of Japanese food

with the earthy flavors of Burgundy wines is best captured by the closing remarks from the luncheon's

hostess Becky Wasserman-Hone: "What this experience did for me was to restore an emotion that has l

ately been dormant. The sense of something happening for the first time." Utagawa's Cuisine of

Subtraction inspired the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Fukuoka, Japan to invite Daisuke to the hotel in March

2000 to prepare a similar Japanese feast paired with Burgundy wines. Furthermore, the French

winemakers of Burgundy have asked him to return annually for a pairing dinner in France and Gourmet

magazine featured Daisuke Utagawa's extraordinary wine and sushi pairing in the January 2001 issue.

Sushi-Ko's team was also invited to the James Beard House in New York to prepare a Cuisine of

Subtractiondinner paired with wines from Robert Mondavi Winery.


Eat it, eat it

If it's gettin' cold, reheat it

Have a big dinner, have a light snack

If you don't like it, you can't send it back

Just eat it -- Weird Al Yankovic

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I seem to remember reading (Bacchus and Me, perhaps?) that the current head of Dom Perignon is a fan of Champagne and sushi. It's hard to imagine this isn't at least partially motivated by the desire to pair Champagne with a newly popular (outside Japan) style of eating, and thus sell more bottles of his wine. On the other hand, Champagne is notoriously food-friendly (as is riesling, by the way).

the Riesling must be from a superior producer and an auslese or halb-troken

A slight correction. These aren't mutually exclusive, though halb-trokken auslesen aren't super common. Auslese refers to the ripeness of the grapes at harvest; halb-trokken ("half dry") refers to the sweetness of the final wine.

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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Welcome, RobInAustin.

After reading this (and the link to Fat Guy's piece on Burgundy with sushi), I find myself wondering about Gruner Veltliner. We had a mighty-mighty taste of Nigl (rhymes with "eagle") Gruner Veltliner at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants on Saturday. (I can't locate vintage info online, sorry.) I know it would be great with Indian food and intensely spicy foods, and wonder how it would pair with wasabi and/or the umami flavor.

Has anyone made any forays into that territory? For the sake of science, of course. I'm having a hard time imagining it, and also having a hard time dismissing it. It might be too much.

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Does anyone think that sake is a better pairing with sushi than grape wine? Just curious. I don't think wine needs to be drunk with everything, but far be it from me to argue with anything that gives you enjoyment. :biggrin:

Michael aka "Pan"


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I love sake with sushi--served cool in a little wooden box. Maybe we should have a sake thread?

I also enjoy Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc with sushi. I haven't really cared for riesling or gewurztraminer with sushi, but champagne . . . hmm. I'd like to try that! I have had pinot noir, which goes nicely with the yellowfin tuna and seaweed salad, but I always order a range of food, so I prefer to stick with a lighter wine, or sake. It would be perfect to have a range of wines to taste with the sushi and sashimi plates, but . . . I haven't been that organized. Next time, for sure! :wink:


Mary Baker

Solid Communications

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Agree strongly with Adam Balic about Fino as a companion for sushi - or alternatively a Manzanilla whose dry, refreshing and mildly bitter character works well.

A second strong agreement for Fino and Manzanilla with sushi. They should be very fresh though, otherwise they get bitter and too nutty.

Try Lustau Fino or La Gitana Manzanilla

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Gruner Veltliner works very well with sushi and sashimi, especially ones which are a little on the minerally side of the taste spectrum.

I totally agree with the riesling and gewurztraminer recommendations, they are both ideal. But Caroline is right to say the the gewurz. needs to be low on residual sugar, otherwise the aromatics on the nose and palate can simply overwhelm the more subtle sushi flavours.

I have also enjoyed searingly acidic chablis with sushi - it acts almost in the same way as the pickled ginger: a palate-cleanser between each morsel!

Champagne also works, especially brut or a blanc-de-blancs. Some of the more rounded, mouth-filling ones somehow seem to lose all direction when paired with the clean lines of sushi and sashimi. But then I am generally biased towards more pinot-oriented champagne like Bollinger, I love the backbone of them, and there is something very seductive about the berry characteristics...... :wub:

Although I must say that the citrus characteristics of a blanc-de-blancs can also be the perfect counterpoint......

Oh man! I am soooo hungry now (and I just finished brekkie!) :rolleyes:

Forget the house, forget the children. I want custody of the red and access to the port once a month.


Doesn't play well with others.

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Does anyone think that sake is a better pairing with sushi than grape wine? Just curious. I don't think wine needs to be drunk with everything, but far be it from me to argue with anything that gives you enjoyment. :biggrin:

I don't have any problem with sake and sushi (it isn't that far a flavour profile then fino sherry for instance), but I have great trouble getting a good sake, whereas La Gitana Manzanilla can be picked up for £5 a bottle without any problems.

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Try pairing sushi with Japanese plum wine. Just make sure it's flavored with plum rather than caramel, if at all possible, otherwise you can get a burnt fake-caramel flavor.

You can get excellent plum wine either imported from Japan or made in California -- I've had good and bad examples of either. My current favorite is Fu-ki Plum wine, though I also like Gekkikan wine. If you find the wine is too strong for you straight up, you can cut it with lime juice or a sparkling water or tonic. I prefer mine chilled, but some purists drink it straight up.

I find that plum wine is subtle enough that it doesn't overpower the clean taste of sushi or sashimi.

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My all time favorite sushi/wine match was with a bottle of 1998 Muller-Catoir Haardter Burgergarten Riesling Spatlese Halbtrocken. The barely off-dry Riesling complimented the sushi perfectly, with both having delicate complex flavors that played off each other.

So I'm a big fan of nearly dry Riesling with sushi. I will have to try the Burgundy pairing sometime.

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Hi. This is my first post and I just wanted to add that I went to a wine tasting event at Lieb Cellars (here on Long Island) a few months ago. The first course served at the event was some tasty maki rolls...with their reserve pinot blanc. It was a stellar pairing....

Lenn Thompson

Freelance Wine Writer



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Thanks for the welcome Dover...I don't claim to be an expert...only a HUGE wine fan and budding wine writer/journalist :)

The pinot blanc pairing with sushi really was spectacular...and I'm not even that into Sushi (I know..how odd for a foodie).

Lenn Thompson

Freelance Wine Writer



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