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Just Divine: Sushi & Wine

When it comes to wine pairing, balance is the key, with neither the wine nor sushi should overpower the other. Typically, the best wines to pair are light to medium-bodied wines with medium to high acid and lower alcohol. However, the fillings, ingredients and sauces play their role and should be factored in when thinking about what wine to pair. 
Sushi rice is a medium-grained, starchy white grain, ideal for moulding once cooked. The key to its flavour is the addition of rice vinegar and sugar after cooking and then additional ingredients and/or fillings. Rice vinegar is less acidic than European vinegars and as such, the beauty of sushi is the subtle and delicate flavours. These are the most common types of sushi we regularly encounter:

Nigiri Sushi are the oval-shaped mounds of rice with a slice of fish or seafood on top.  Usually the fish is raw, but sometimes cooked (in the case of eel or prawn) or fermented.

Maki Sushi are shaped like a cylinder: the outer layer is a sheet of dried seaweed called nori, rolled around a layer of rice and fillings. The rolled cylinder is sliced into individual bite-sized portions. Hosomaki is a thin sushi roll, typically with just one or two ingredients whereas Fotomaki is a thick sushi roll consisting of several ingredients.

Inside Out Rolls are where the seaweed and fillings are on the inside, with the rice on the outside.

Sashimi isn’t sushi at all: it’s purely raw fish that has been seasoned with soy sauce, wasabi, miso or ginger. As rice isn’t involved, strictly speaking isn’t sushi, however it is commonly presented alongside sushi and so we’re including it away!

….and who can resist Tempura?! Not us!!

Here’s our top ten suggestions for sushi and wine pairings

Salmon Sashimi/Nigiri & Rosé

When salmon is offered, think pink! Salmon is a fattier fish than most, crisp and elegant Provence Rosé is an excellent pairing. The wine offers bright acidity with decent fruity body drawing out the  sweeter flavours of the fish.

Try with 2021 Château Gairoird Rosé, Côtes de Provence


Tuna Sashimi/Nigiri & Chardonnay

Tuna has a little more weight to it than the average raw fish, therefore it can take on a wine with a bit more power. The clean, crisp acidity and weight of an unoaked Chardonnay is a brilliant match.

2020 Chablis, Domaine Besson, Burgundy


Spicy Tuna Rolls & Riesling

The spicy mayonnaise is the element that give the Tuna Rolls a chilli kick. An aromatic, high-acid wine with some sweetness is a fabulous pairing to calm down that touch of heat and Riesling is a dream variety to pair here. You can decide on how much sweetness you prefer, but off-dry is super sensational!

Try with 2016 Reserve Riesling, Bethany Wines, Eden Valley


Cucumber and Avocado Rolls & Grüner Veltliner

Crisp, clean wines with higher acidity make for great vegetable matches. Grüner Veltliner offers complexity, citrus and spicy white pepper notes with natural freshness to enhance the flavour of the vegetable sushi.

Try with 2020 Classic Style Grüner Veltliner, Weingut Sepp Moser


Prawn Tempura & Albariño

Fresh, bright Albariño with its zingy acidity and zippy citrus notes is brilliant at cutting through the oiliness of the batter and pairing with the sweetness of the prawn: this is an absolute crowd pleaser!

Barbuntin, Quinta de Couselo, Rías Baixas


Octopus & Beaujolais

Octopus sushi is normally cooked showing much richer flavours that the wine needs to balance with. Fortunately for red wine lovers, Beaujolais is a wonderful companion: lighter in body with soft tannins that complement the meatier notes.

Try with 2020 Beaujolais Villages, Château de Belleverne, Beaujolais


Ugani & Pinot Noir

Grilled Eel can have a caramelised, smoky flavour which matches beautifully with the earthiness of Pinot Noir. Silky tannins that don’t overwhelm the delicacy are key.

Try with 2018 Santenay Rouge Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Justin Girardin, Burgundy


Soft Shell Crab Spider Roll & Viognier

The richness of the crab works incredibly well with Viognier’s floral aromatics and rich, oily mouthfeel.

Try with 2020 North Coast Viognier, Cline Cellars, North Coast California


Sparkling Salmon & Rosé Champagne

Dry Rosé Champagne works incredibly well allowing the red fruit flavours to draw out the deeper flavours of salmon nigiri and roe. However, it’s the textural experience of both roe and Champagne bubbles popping simultaneously that provides serious excitement here!

Try with Champagne Gremillet Rosé d’Assemblage Brut


And if we had to pick one wine alone to accompany a mixed sushi platter, it would be . . . .


This bright bubbly offers ripe orchard fruit and clean citrussy notes that makes it an outstanding pairing to cover all sushi.

Try with Le Dolci Colline Prosecco Spumante Brut N.V.

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