Pairing a wine and sushi is a tricky task. It can prove to be daunting if you don’t have any reference or guide. It is rather convenient to pick a fairly good wine to go with a beef steak or pork chops or lamb ribs. Sushi is of Japanese origin. Japanese beverages are mostly grain based, be it beer or sake. Wine is of European origin. It is fruit based and hence there is no natural complementary relationship that has been tried and tested over centuries. Very few wines can be paired with sushi and you cannot pick anything that is too bold or too flavorsome, which will overpower the delicateness and subtlety of sushi.
• Let us begin with the perennial favorite, salmon roll. The best wine to pair with salmon roll is dry rose. Dry rose wine such as the Bonny Doon 2009 Vin Gris de Cigare has a fine tartness, the flavor of cherry, raspberry and watermelon go well with the salmon and the tinge of rose with the spike of lime can make for a pairing made in heaven.
• Unagi nigiri is harder to pair than salmon roll but you would not go wrong if you pick a bottle of Gewürztraminer. The wine is spicy which complements the spicy sauce of unagi nigiri. The ginger that makes the earthiness of the sushi interesting also complements the aroma of the wine. Get yourself a bottle of Thomas Fogarty 2008 Gewürztraminer.
• Spicy tuna roll can be safely paired with dry Riesling. Do not reach out for any variety of red wine to go with tuna. Riesling has a sweet texture and is quite filling in the mouth, it stands its ground against the spicy roll and the fine flavors of pink grapefruit, guava and stone fruit complement the fish.
• Crab roll is best paired with Grüner Veltliner. Gruner has a citric taste and it works amazingly well against the sweetness of the crabmeat. Reach out for a Chehalem 2009 Grüner Veltliner. The underlying texture of lemon, jasmine, apple and grapefruit with the tinge of herbs work like magic with crab rolls.
• Shrimp nigiri has a safe friend in Pinot Gris. Shrimp is sweet and a bit of citric influence can never go wrong. The Morgan 2009 R&D Franscioni Vineyard Pinot Gris has generous doses of citrus, apple and Asian pear. It is crisp and tart, just what you need for the sweet shrimp nigiri.
You should never pick an excessively dry wine or one that is very sweet. Both will get into a conflict with sushi. Japanese cuisine is generally subtle but some recipes are quite spicy. Hence, you need to choose a wine based on the exact preparation of sushi. Do not make blind choices as the flavor and aroma of the wine may ruin your delicate, sweet, fleshy or spicy sushi. You will have to indulge in a bit of experimentation for the first few pairings.
If you want a list beyond the aforementioned pairings, then you can explore Chehalem Riesling, Wind Ridge Block 2013 or Riesling, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht 2009. Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion 2011 and Fox Run Dry Riesling 2013 are safe options. Prieuré de Montezargues Rosé 2014 and Riesling Cuvée Théo 2012, Domaine Weinbach can be paired with sushi and other Japanese dishes. Another potential option is Weingut Liebfrauenstift Riesling 2013. Read more about these specific wines, consider the sushi recipe and how it is expected to taste so you can choose the ideal pairing. You should also factor in your personal preference because wine pairing is as much subjective as it is objective.