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Column: Time to switch to wine with sushi in 2021

Wine pairing recommendations for different types of sushi.
Explore what wines will pair with the delicious varieties of sushi available.

With the new year underway, you’re probably looking for a change in menu, something other than turkey or ham. Although sake and beer are popular beverages to enjoy with sushi, wine can be a tasty choice as well.

But which wine? A useful rule of thumb when pairing wine with any food is “Like with Like” where you want to match the body of the food with the body of the wine. This is where the "rules" of serving white wine with fish and serving red wine with serving red wine with meat originate.  Both white wine and fish are usually light bodied, whereas red wine and meat are heavier bodied.

Sarah Sutel at Wine4Food explains further, “I pay attention to the cooking method, or lack thereof, because this defines how food is going to feel, on the palate.  Raw foods and poaching or steaming methods result in a lighter palate weight. Grilling and searing methods result in a richer, fuller palate experience thanks to the Maillard reaction.” Cooking converts the sugars and proteins in or on food creating new flavours, smells and colours. Once you judge the relative weight of the sushi, select your wine.

Riesling is an excellent aromatic wine to serve with a lot of types sushi. It can be dry, off-dry, or sweet. Dry Rieslings such as B.C.’s Quail’s Gate Riesling ($17.99) or Australia’s Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling ($19.99) are very good choices.  They are considered excellent food wines because of their crisp acidity, which stimulates the appetite and refreshes the palate, making you want another bite.

Spicy hot sushi such as a prawn dynamite roll or spicy tuna or crab roll require a sweeter off-dry Riesling. Sweeter wines will minimize the spiciness and cool your palate. They will also be a good foil to the spiciness of wasabi and pickled ginger. Two good off-dry examples are Wild Goose 2019 Riesling from Okanagan Falls ($17.39) and My Karp Mosel ($17.99) from Germany.

Another example of a sushi wine is  Gruner Veltliner. It shares a lot of similarities with Riesling because of its minerality and bracing acidity that enhances the taste of sushi. It has a fruity character (pears, apples, apricots, citrus) with a hint of asparagus and white pepper. Two Gruners to try are the Austrian Laurenz ($21.49) and Osoyoo’s Bordertown Gruner Veltliner ($20.19)*

Spanish wines offer another tasty choice to enjoy with sushi. Albarino is produced in north-west Galicia, close to the sea. As a result it has a noticeable salinity and lemon, grapefruit, and nectarine flavours with crisp acidity. There’s only one available in Richmond at Brighouse, the Rias Baixas Rosal Albarino ($21.49).

Dry Sherry, from Spain’s Andalucía region is another match for sushi. Both Fino and Manzanilla are light-bodied with a saltiness that comes from their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s no surprise that wines produced near the sea would complement a seafood product like sushi. These two types of Sherries also have a nutty and green olive flavour and are best enjoyed chilled.

Look for Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Fino ($20.99), Manzanilla La Guita ($24.99), and Manzanilla La Gitana from Hidalgo ($28.99). If you enjoy a Uni (sea urchin) with its own mild nutty and briny character profile, match it with any of these three Sherries.

Finally, a dry rosé with bright acidity, minerality, and strawberry flavours works well with salmon or tuna sushi or crab in California rolls. Quail’s Gate 2019 Rosé (19.99), Robin Ridge Flicker Rosé  ($19.89) or Gerard Bertrand Cote des Roses Rosé 2018 ($22.99) from Languedoc France are worth exploring.

You can start 2021 trying two or three of these wines with various sushi. If this  sounds like too much trouble, stick with one wine that you like and see how it works.

All wines are available at BC Liquor Stores except those with * which are at Ironwood’s Save-On VQA.