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Wine paring with Sushi?

Hi there,

I am going to a party next week hosted by a group of Wine Aficionados. Around 40 people in a private home with a Sushi Chef whom will be there for about 4 hours. I have never had Wine with Sushi before. Asked a friend whom had attended this party last year and said I should bring Wine and NOT Sake. Sake would be my fist choice and only. Could you please help, thinking on bringing two bottles with me..

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  1. Sushi abhors schlock.
    As long as you follow that rule, you'll be fine.

    1. a lot of it depends on what types of fish the chef will be serving, and the varying levels of saltiness from soy and heat from wasabi. however, you typically can't go wrong with some of the crisp white varietals like Albarino, Gewürztraminer, Gruner Veltliner, Fumé Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, or Viognier, and sparkling wines. stay away from anything oaky or buttery like Chardonnay.

      you could also do a light, fruity red like Pinot Noir or Beaujolais, or a Rosé, but definitely steer clear of bold, tannic reds.

      1 Reply
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        +1 on the Gruner Veltliner. Hopler make a good one at around £7, very slight pettilance too which I imagine would work well with the sushi.

        1. re: invinotheresverde

          Yup. Rose bubbles too. Stellar with maguro.

          1. re: invinotheresverde

            Sushi certainly calls for bubbles. If your budget calls for it go with some Piper Heidsick.

            If you want to bring a bottle of still wine I'd go with a grassy sauvignon blanc.

          2. Of course, some will depend on the exact dishes, but I have a good, general rec. for a New World Sauvignon Blanc, that has come through with a pretty wide range of sushi - Groth Napa Sauvignon Blanc. It's fairly fruit-forward, and has the "heart" to stand up to wasabi, but pairs well with most fish/seafood items. By itself, it's a nice little quaffer, without a great deal of heft. Paired with food, especially with some heat, it comes into its own. I keep a few bottles available, for when my wife comes home with some good, fresh sushi. BTW, it pairs fine with tempura too.

            While I love the NZ SB's, I find them "off," with regards to most of the sushi, that I have experienced.

            Hunt

            1. Champagne would be my first choice

              1. Piling on... Champagne or other sparkling wine.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Brad Ballinger

                  Joining the pile-on. Dry bubbles. Survives soy and wasabi. Many wines can work, but champagne always does work.

                2. I don't see that anyone's mentioned riesling. A drier riesling or and older spatlese would be nice. I'd also add gewurztraminer, gruner veltliner, sparkling wines and if it's not too spicy of sushi then pinot noir.
                  If you'd like some specific recommendations, I see you post in the Los Angeles area. Wine Searcher shows Woodland Hills wine Co. has a 2002 Huet Vourvay Brut for $28. It will drink like a $60 to $80 bottle of Champagne.
                  Wine Expo in Santa Monica has a non-vintage Grand Cru champagne for something like $38. I bought a bottle but haven't tried it yet. Roberto's recommendations' there are usually pretty good.
                  If you're more towards the southern end, The Wine Country in Signal Hill (surrounded by Long Beach) had a 1994 Maximum Grunhauser spatlese for $40ish last time I was in there, but it's not listed on the Web site now. If they've got that, that will be nice. They don't have Huet but they've got other sparkling wines from the Loire and a nice selection of pinot noir.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: SteveTimko

                    Thanks to Steve and all whom replied. After reading a bit from this thread and other posters outside of this thread and CH. I am going with 2 Bottles of the 2002 Huet Vourvay Brut ( was going with a mini vertical with the 2000 but no stock). Just called Woodland Hills Wine and placed 2 on Hold. Looking for a third and may go still wine on that one, however I am undecided at the moment. Hope you all agree with my selection.. Thanks to all.. Party is this Sunday afternoon.

                      1. re: SteveTimko

                        Hi Steve and Fellow Chowhounds. Well Steves tip for the 2002 Huet Vouvray Brut Petillant was spot on. Not only did pair well with the sushi ( had it real early on in the evening ) I would use it again at home anytime. Nice golden color very tiny bead that blew off very quickly for those whom tasted it in a wine glass. All in all tasted and drinks like a nice champagne, nice bread and yeasty notes with some hints of floral and apple ( whom would of thought.. ) Rest of the night 35 people and 52 bottles ( the host lined them up at the end and took a photo ) Many sparklers, different kinds of whites many chardonays, rieslings, viognier, rose and blush wines, some nice French Chenin Blancs ( the Huet too ) and some Killer Pinots and some rouge wines too at the end with the eel and fried rolls. Thanks again for the tips..

                    1. Few things provide me more joy than unagi paired with a glass of scotch slightly diluted by cube of ice. Generally though I don't want to mask the oceany flavor of the fish (really have gotten into sashimi lately) so I'm looking at something dry, acidic and somewhat reserved: German Riesling, or Champagne.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Chinon00

                        Now, considering the flavor profiles, do you like a Speyside SM Scotch whiskey?

                        Just curious,

                        Hunt

                        1. re: Chinon00

                          Chinon00(7), what a surprising comment.
                          Esoteric, sophisticated, and so singular. Ooh-la-lah!

                          Scotch, huh? A beverage about which, sadly, I lack exposure and understanding. Alas. Yes, agree about a Riesling. And only some (not too many in my mind) Sauvignon Blancs. But all loom as possibilities.

                          May I share with *you* a specific? It regards that little tweak of heat in sushi. I'm sure you know of it. Whether it's from the wasabi or another source, that little tweak of heat just rocks -- rocks -- with Bubbly. Something about bubbles and the originating grapes really work with sushi heat, at least to my palate. Not only Champagne, but also a good domestic sparkler. My own hedonic preference with sushi: Rosé Champagne.

                          Thanks for the idea,
                          Maria

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            I've really enjoyed German Riesling Sekts with sushi. And you're totally right about the bubbles and wasabi, it's a great combination.

                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              I do agree with the bubbles, though I reach for the Groth more often. I've mentioned it in other threads, long ago, but attended a tasting with Chef Mark Miller (then of Coyote Cafe and others). He had six dishes, IIRC, with a full range of Asian cooking methods and ingredients. We tasted each with a group of beverages: Reisling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Ale, Pinot Noir and Rosé Champagne (no Scotch Whiskey, sorry). Some beverages went with certain dishes. Only one went with EVERY dish and that was the Rosé Champagne. At the end of the tasting, it was the hands-down favorite of all attendees. I would have liked to do the tasting with both the Groth SB and with a non-Rosé Champagne, just to see if there were differences. Still, the "lightbulb" went off in my head, as it seemed to in most of the others'.

                              Whenever I am in a conundrum (not the white blend), with regards to pairing, I'll try it with a Rosé Champagne, or Rosé sparkler.

                              Hunt

                          2. I like to drink a lot of sauvignon blanc, riesling, viognier, and pinot noir with sushi... -mJ

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: njfoodies

                              I've tried a few Viogniers (am a big fan), but have never found the right combo. Probably the producer, or the sushi.

                              Now, above I made a little joke about Conundrum, but do find it to be a pretty good pairing with some sushi (plus other dishes), and it's a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat AND Viognier. However, I liked that blend better, when the Muscat and the Viognier were a bit larger percentage.

                              Do you have any particular producers of Viognier, that you can recommend?

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                You're talking new world single varietal? Because I usually drink western Euro wines and if there's any viognier involved, it's mixed with other grapes. I have definitely heard that there are some producers in CA that make nice viogniers, but I have yet to encounter them myself.

                                1. re: Mawrter

                                  I believe Condrieu is viognier. Not inexpensive, though.

                                  1. re: wally

                                    I have never encountered a Condrieu producer, who blended, to my knowledge.

                                    For US producers, I've had excellent examples from Gregory Graham and Joseph Phelps, both in Napa. I *believe* that their properties/sources are also in Napa.

                                    There is a winery in southeren Arizona, Dos Cabezas, that has had some very nice Vigonier vintages too. Going back some years ago, their Viognier was the blind tasting winner, over two Condrieus (which were quite good). This blew many in the group away, and none could believe that they had chosen first a domestic Viognier, and especially a wine from, of all places, AZ, over two top producer's Condrieu.

                                    Hunt

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Here's a Chowhound story on Viognier:
                                      http://www.chow.com/stories/11578

                                      Beyond those mentioned in the Chow story (but I've never had Kunin or Calera), I've liked Viognier from Kongsgaard, Phelps, Freemark Abbey and Stags' Leap Winery. For me to like a Viognier, it has to have the prototypical floral and autumnal spice notes that characterize Viognier, or it doesn't pass muster. There are quite a few lacking those signature flavor notes.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        ML,

                                        Thanks for that link. I do not recall ever having read that article.

                                        Have not tried Kunin, or the Freemark Abbey. Will keep my eyes open, based on seeing them appear in anything that you write.

                                        If you have an opportunity, do try the Gregory Graham Napa Viognier and let me know what you think. In AZ, I can only get it about every 4 years, if I get lucky. Have not had a recent vintage in too many years. I'd be very interested in your take on it.

                                        Thanks,

                                        Hunt

                            2. As a general rule, the lighter the fish, the lighter the wine: e.g. German Kabinett/Spätlese with hirame (flat fish), NZ Sauvignon Blanc with mackerel.

                              For the typical North American sushi sampler, I agree with several of the suggestions above, especially bubblies (Champagne if I'm feeling flush, otherwise a crémant de Bourgogne or du Jura, a sparkling Vouvray or certain New World sparklers) and dryish/off-dry German Riesling. I also find still sec-tendre Vouvray and spritzy vinho verde can make a good match. Flabby/buttery whites and powerful wines of any colour are best saved for another occasion, IMO.

                              Reds I avoid unless there's only red fish (e.g. bluefin tuna) or raw horsemeat/venison on the platter, and then I make sure the wine's lightweightish with good acidity, mild tannins and no perceptible oak -- a Marsannay, say.

                              1. We recently had some good luck with a bottle of Tocai Friulano and a takeout platter (ranging from simple nigiris to some complicated rolls). The producer also suggested this and it was pretty good good, not to mention a somewhat esoteric wine to impress your cork dork friends. Of course, bubbles are always safe.

                                1. Me, I stick to beer with my sushi.

                                  But I'm surprised that noone has suggested rose. No, not grandma's Almaden and not that cloying white zin dreck. A good crisp, dry rose pairs well with fish. It offers a more interesting fruit without risk of oaky tones that do not go with fish.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. IMO bracing, briney beverages go best with sushi. I stick with Muscadet, Scotch, Sake, Shochu and Lager Beer. By in large, fruity and floral wines seem to detract from and overpower sushi. I'd steer clear of Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Viognier. I love champagne with tempura and agedashi dofu, but it wouldn't be my first choice with sushi.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Vinny Barbaresco

                                      Just had a 1999 Nigl Riesling Senftenberger Hochäcker and a 1996 Duval-Leroy Champagne Blanc de Chardonnay Brut with sushi Wednesday night and they did very well.

                                    2. Sushi is great becuase you can enjoy the superb quality of a very small number of the absolutle best ingrediants. Perfectly cooked, seasoned and vinigared rice paired with the freshest fish. In the case of sushi, less is trully more. In this vein, I would avoid anything too complex. It will distract from the delicate flavor of the sushi, which should always be the star. For this reason, I would recomend a simple sparkling wine, a very dry cava for example.

                                      In all honestly though, I find that beer pairs much more favorably with sushi than wine. Especially a decent, crisp lager. Yes, I know it's the wine section.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: The Chemist

                                        Oh, you are completely allowed. Sometimes, the best wine for a pairing is a beer, ale, stout or similar...

                                        Hunt

                                      2. Am surprised that no one mentioned white and red Burgundy. At Sushi Taku in Tokyo (a two star), they served sushi with wine as one of the two owners is the sommelier. When I was there, they paired it with a young (i think 05) puligny montrachet which worked very well. There was also a young red Burgundy to go with the tuna and other red meat fishes. Can't remember the specific bottle though.

                                        1. a restaurant in NYC (Jewel Bako) used to quasi-specialize in exactly this...their sushi chef left, so i haven't been back in years, but the owner used to pair glasses (or half-glasses if you were a party of two) with each piece or two of sushi...it was sublime...

                                          in general, usually things started off with Muscadet or similarly dry shellfish whites, moved into Chablis and Sauvignon Blanc...but the most memorable pairing was a high-end Lebanese red (a top Musar, i believe) with the otoro...

                                          because i don't like beer or sake, i usually have to make do with meager wine choices in most Japanese places (or i drink shochu)...so i'll usually opt for a S.Blanc or Pinot Grigio, followed by the least-bad red choice to go with the tuna and unagi...

                                          but i'm highly intrigued by Chinon00's suggestion of single-malt w/ unagi, as it intuitively makes sense, with the smokiness of each and the bracing alchohol to contrast the fatty eel...will try it soon...

                                          sidenote: while rose seems like a safe choice (and i drink tons of rose, usually Tavel or Bandol), i actually don't think it goes all that great with much sushi, with the exception of salmon (which i don't eat as sushi) or arctic char...