Think about it: How often do you seriously consider your wine pairings when you’re sitting down to dig into a platter of sushi? Most of the time, all eyes (and tastebuds) are on the main event, and if you’re at one of your favorite hole-in-the-wall neighborhood spots, your options may only be “red” or “white” anyway. But if you’ve recently learned how to make sushi at home and are staying in to save money, you have extra time and brain power to consider your wine choice a little more carefully. To help you get started, try these wine pairing tips from Jessica Burkins, General Manager of Lobster Place and Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar.
The fish is always first
“The most important thing to remember is that the fish is the star of the show,” Jessica says. Sushi’s delicacy is “what makes it so impressive,” so be sure to choose wines that “highlight and enhance the subtle nuances of the fish without masking it.” This means avoiding wines that have heavy oak or tannins. She recommends “old-world styles of Chablis, Blanc de blancs Champagne or white Burgundy.”
Quick and dirty sake guide
Simple and clean sashimi: Pair with a crisp Junami Gingo for easy drinking.
Nigiri: Pair with a Junmai. “Traditionally, drinking sake with nigiri was a no-no because you were doubling up on rice & rice, Jessica says, but she personally loves the clean pairing.
Specialty rolls: Pair with Nigori (unfiltered) sake, though Jessica warns that many popular Nigori sake can be super sweet and overpower the flavor of the fish. Right now, her favorite pairing is Rihaku, Dreamy Clouds Nigori paired with a spicy tuna hand roll, saying, “The delicate fruit-driven nature of this sake pairs extremely well with spice and heat.”
The #1 Don’t
“Don’t be afraid to experiment!” Jessica says. “The beauty of sushi is that the fish can range from light and lean to weighty and rich.” That means you can have fun with a salty, coastal Assyrtiko out of Santorini or an Oregon Pinot Noir, depending on your sushi choices. She goes on to say that you can “absolutely go red or white, sweet or dry,” so don’t limit yourself as long as you’re keeping the light fish in mind.
Jessica’s Current Pairing Obsessions
If you’re looking for some specific guidance to start you on your sushi pairing journey, Jessica kindly hooked us up with her favorite pairings of the moment. Cheers!
For Hirame (fluke), Jessica suggests Assyrtiko, 2015, Sigalas, Santorini. It’s “briny, bright and mineral strong. Clean and simple, allowing the fish to shine.” And for Aji (horse mackerel), she loves Kiralyudvar, 2013, Tokaji Furmint Sec, Hungary. “This is a fun one!” Jessica says. “The nose on this wine is nutty and oxidized, similar to a fino sherry, but the palate lights up with a focused acidity and round body.”
Do you have a favorite wine or sake to drink with sushi? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!