In our humble opinion, sushi night is the best night of the week. So, how do you choose the best wine for your sushi? TBH, you could drive yourself a little crazy thinking about the nitty gritty details of every menu item in your cart. After all, a piece of nigiri (fish over rice) or maki (a roll), is a whole experience on its own.
Even though wine pairing usually goes best when you consider all the tastes and textures – the cut of fish, the cooking style (or lack thereof), etc. – when it comes to sushi, we believe in keeping things simple. So, don’t worry about picking the right wine for each roll. Instead, think about the big picture. This way, when the sushi arrives, all you have to do is chill out and enjoy.
Here are some wines that will work well with the whole meal, whether you like red, white, or rosé.
Riesling is a solid choice for sushi. Lighter cuts of fish pair well with a light-bodied white wine, and the delicate fruit notes and mouth watering acidity in Riesling do just the trick. If you prefer lean cuts of fish like white fish or yellowtail, go with a dry Riesling. If you prefer spicy bites, go with an off-dry Riesling. The sweetness in the wine will tone down the spice of the food, making for a harmonious pairing.
Rosé from Provence is very dry with bright acidity, slate minerality, and notes of strawberry, making it an excellent pairing for sushi. It pairs particularly well with tuna, salmon, and the crab in California rolls – which makes sense because, in its hometown of Provence, it’s often paired with fish and seafood.
Red wine lovers, don’t despair. You may have heard that you should pair white wine with fish, but some rules are meant to be broken. The key is to pick a light-bodied red with mild tannins, like Pinot Noir. Strong tannins can make fish taste metallic, and obviously you want to avoid that. Red Burgundy – an Old-World Pinot Noir – or New-World Pinot from a cool-climate region like Oregon is your best bet, particularly alongside tuna or salmon.
Pairing Wine and Your Sushi Order
1. Tempura + Sauvignon Blanc
Deep fried and delicious, tempura pairs well with a sparkling wine like Cava or very light-bodied white wine. Vinho Verde – a white blend from Portugal with a slight effervescence – or Sauvignon Blanc are solid choices.
We like to pair our tempura with Bright Cellars' Strange One Sauvignon Blanc. The flavors of passion fruit, white peach, and honeydew will go pair nicely with the tempura flavors.
2. Eel + Grüner Veltliner
Grilled eel is smoky and can be slightly caramelized. You’ll want a wine that can cut through the richness of eel, so pair your unagi (eel) roll or dragon roll (eel with avocado and hoisin-bbq sauce) with Grüner Veltliner – a light and zesty white wine with notes of lime, grapefruit, and white pepper – or Gewürztraminer, an aromatic white wine.
3. Light Fish + Pinot Grigio
If you’re sticking with light, lean cuts of fish – either as sashimi, nigiri, or maki – go with a light-bodied white wine like Albariño, Pinot Grigio, or Chablis – a very light, unoaked Chardonnay made in France.
4. Tuna/Salmon + Pinot Noir
More oily, robust cuts of fish can handle a more intense wine. If your go-to is a Philly or Alaska roll, try a bone dry Provençal rosé or a light-bodied red. For fatty tuna – the most decadent sushi out there – go for a light red wine like Pinot Noir or Beaujolais.
5. Spicy Tuna + Riesling
For rolls made with spicy mayo or chili oil, you’ll want a slightly sweet low-ABV wine to mellow out the heat. An off-dry Riesling is a great choice for spicy food lovers.
6. Vegetarian maki + Rosé
If raw fish is not for you, no worries! Veggie maki pairs best with a lighter wine. Go with a light-bodied Vinho Verde for crunchy rolls with cucumber or asparagus, or a light-bodied dry rosé for avocado rolls.