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Pairing Sushi With The Right Wine

Pairing Sushi With The Right Wine

I’ve been eating sushi for as long as I can remember. I do have a handful of wines that pair quite well with sushi. Pairing sushi with the right wine makes me enjoy them even more than I ever thought possible. Although depending on my mood, I’ll just have a vodka martini. Not to compare myself to the world’s favorite spy, I do enjoy a martini… 3 olives – shaken, not stirred ;-) But my name is not James Bond… Thankfully.

Pairing Sushi With The Right Wine

For those who don’t know me, my name is Laurent and one of my favorite things to do is pairing wine with food. It doesn’t always work but I have fun trying. Now, let’s talk about those tiny flappy slices of raw fish for a moment. Sushi has a very mild flavor pattern, slightly sweet, a bit salty, medium fat with a buttery feeling, and the optional spicy kick if you use the wasabi paste in your soy sauce. Sushi being a Japanese dish, the well known sake – aka rice wine – comes to mind. Not everybody loves sake, I’m not a huge fan of it myself. So the burning question is what else is there to drink with your sashimi or nigiri-sushi? Hopefully the following list will help you pick wine like a pro.

Pairing Sushi With The Right Wine

Pinot Blanc

• First on the list, Pinot Blanc, a dry white wine from the Alsace region of France, also called Klevner if you get it from the other side of the border. Pinot Blanc is less aromatic than other white wines in Alsace. However it features a nice balance of softness and freshness, making it one of the lightest wine in Alsace along with Sylvaner. Pinot Blanc is pale in color, delicately fruity with peach and pear aromas. And that my friend is a great match! A good example of Pinot Blanc is Domaine Zind-Humbrecht. From one of the top estates in Alsace, the Zind-Humbrecht’s bio-dynamically produced Pinot Blanc is a terrific buy, at about $18.


• A close second is Chardonnay, but not all Chardonnay’s are created equal! For a good pairing, you must pick a French Chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France, crisp and refreshing, with a nice balance of sugar and minerality. You might get away with a California Chardonnay as long as it is not too buttery, and more importantly no California oak. Wooden barrels from California layer the wine with a hint of toasted oak which creates a smooth buttery finish with a hint of vanilla. A “traditional” Chardonnay fermented in stainless steel and aged in French oak is crisp, with notes of juicy green apples and peaches. Now that’s what you want!

And my personal pick is the Great Bear Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve, from the Yolo County, just 3 miles north of Davis, California. Organically grown on the property, harvested at peak ripeness, fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel, and aged in neutral French oak. With a price point of $35, when it comes to pairing sushi with the right wine, this is a definite match.

Chenin Blanc

Buttonwood Farm Vineyard – Wine Tasting• Number 3 is Chenin Blanc. Similarly to the Chardonnay, you’ll want an old world Chenin Blanc from the Loire region of France. Since it might be more difficult to get one of those, let me introduce you to a Chenin Blanc that recently claimed residency at Buttonwood Winery & Vineyards, in the Los Olivos District, just 2 miles north of Solvang, California. My wife and I were there a few weeks ago and the person who was serving us noticed our accent and figured we were French. He was right… About my wife! I actually sound Canadian.

Anyway, considering our birth place, he offered a wine that wasn’t on the list. Chenin Blanc, grown on their property, features fresh and balanced wine boasting notes of pineapple, ripe pear, orange blossom, and oyster-shell minerality. It is a little pricy at $32 a bottle but the pairing is once again “a match made in heaven.”


• Number 4 is Riesling. Thrilling at any price, the 2021 Limited Selection Riesling from Gainey Vineyard shows the potential of Riesling in California’s Santa Ynez Valley. Beautifully aromatic, this Riesling is cold-fermented in stainless steel tanks and bottled after just a few months, with no time in barrel, to preserve and accentuate its fresh and lusciously fruity flavors – and get this, under $25 – this Riesling is dry, not sweet, and exhibits balance and finesse. You will thank me… No really, please send me your thoughts if you do try it.

Sauvignon Blanc

• Number 5 is the inevitable Sauvignon Blanc. Light-bodied and bright with citrus and acidity, Sauvignon Blanc is a lovely, gentle pairing for fresh sushi rolls with white fish, vegetarian rolls, and shrimp tempura. The citrus brings out the flavors of the fish while the acidity cuts through fattier raw fish and avocado, for the California roll lovers. Sauvignon Blanc typically offers bright citrus, grapefruit, passion fruit, and grassy notes. The wine’s high acidity works almost like the ginger that accompanies sushi. Ginger is intended to be eaten between bites of sushi to cleanse the palate so that you can distinguish the nuances of your next piece.

Let me introduce you to Ancient Peaks Winery. We were there last year celebrating my cousin’s birthday and we tried a few of their wines; their Sauvignon Blanc was the highlight of our tasting. Priced at $32, the wine features a subtle taste of apricot, kiwi, and pink grapefruit, all unfolding with lingering citrus notes.


• Number 6 is a Garganega from Italy, the indigenous grape responsible for great Soave. This varietal produces medium bodied white wines with fine acidity. From Veneto Italy, the grapes for third-generation winemaker Stefano Inama’s Soave Classico come from 40-year-old vines, giving this Soave an uncharacteristic intensity. The bouquet is gentle, mostly wild flowers, and a minerality reminiscent of Chablis along with a bright thread of acidity. At $17 a bottle, it will hold your interest, sip after sip.


• Number 7 is a Beaujolais. This may sound surprising but I do like to pair Sushi with a Beaujolais or even a light Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France. The acidity in these wines will cut through the fat in the fish while also offering a pleasant balance of texture and rich flavors. My recommendation in the red wine category is coming from the Beaujolais region of France, more specifically Brouilly AVA. This Beaujolais Cru is relatively robust and medium-bodied compared to the light, fresh Beaujolais Nouveau. With a price tag of $28 and a 90 point score, the Domaine Jean-Claude Lapalu Brouilly Vieilles Vignes is guaranteed to make you come back for more.


• And coming last but certainly not least, Champagne! Some people put up a big fuss about their fizz, that’s just crazy talk. In fact, I think Champagne is way underrated when it comes to pairing it with food. Most people have it as a celebratory drink but it pairs nicely with foie gras, hors d’oeuvres, oysters, lobsters, desserts, and of course… Sushi! I really don’t have any recommendations for Champagne but make sure to get a Brut Champagne, none of that sweet stuff. You could also consider a demi-sec for a softer, fruitier wine. My favorite however is Blanc de Blancs. It literally means White of Whites, as it is produced entirely from white grapes only, most commonly Chardonnay. Blanc de Blancs will be crisp and clean with a lively acidity and a touch of minerality.

There you have it! Those are my humble recommendations for pairing sushi with the right wine. They are not scientifically proven because they simply can’t. Taste is a very personal thing. While some of the above pairings might hit a bull’s eye for some, it may be a total miss for others. See if they work for you and let me know what you think in the comments. Cheers!

*Please note that Wine Ponder’s recommendations are selected by Laurent and/or Steve only. We don’t rely on press releases or hearsay to determine what merits mention. We personally test every wine we recommend, to ensure that we serve you only honest and objective content. Most important, our taste is not for sale. Brands and establishments do not pay to be recommended by Wine Ponder. Wine Ponder’s picks like these are selected by us. Wine Ponder does not receive affiliate fees or other compensation when you take our recommendation.

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