How to Pick the Right Wine for Japanese Food

With its purity of flavour, Japanese food can be one of the easiest of the Asian cuisines to match with wine, particularly if you’re having sushi. The Japanese often drink sake with it, and for me the best match is the wine that is closest to sake stylistically: fino or manzanilla sherry, which have a delicate nutty, savoury flavour profile and are bone-dry. If you prefer non-fortified wine, the key is to get something dry and even a little austere. New World whites tend to have too much sweetness of fruit for sushi, so you’re better sticking to Europe and classic’ regions like Sancerre, Chablis or Burgundy, where the flavours tend to be flinty and chalky rather than actively fruity.

Meatier Japanese dishes obviously require red wine, but probably not anything too enormous, which might stamp all over the flavours. So, provided what you’ve ordered isn’t too spicy, medium-bodied European reds are likely to be best. Young Bordeaux or Burgundies work well, and so can Chianti, Rioja and Loire Cabernet Francs. If you want to go New World, a Kiwi or Aussie Pinot Noir (from Tasmania if they’ve got it) is probably your best bet.

For anything with lots of dominant strong flavours that are ‘difficult’ for wine (for example, Japanese pickles, wasabi and sesame oil), you might want to ‘go native’ and try that sake!

And from left-field

If you’re looking for something a bit different, dry (brut) champagne can be an inspired match with sushi, particularly if it’s a good, chalky blanc de blancs (i.e. made from Chardonnay). For teppanyaki, a rich, lush amontillado sherry can do the trick.

Filed Under: Food & Cooking


About the Author: Leona Kesler is a head-chef at a very popular food restaurant in New York. Also she is a blogger who shares her experiences, tips, and other informative details about food and cooking. Her recipes are featured on many magazines.

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