Recommending wines to accompany sushi is a little tricky. Not that the fresh and delicate flavours, or the glutinous nature of sushi rice are themselves difficult. The problem ingredient is hot wasabi sauce. Wasabi is invariably concealed somewhere within the sushi structure. It is a paste made from the root of the wasabi plant and tastes not unlike stronger, more pungent horseradish.
The challenge is to find wines that will not overpower the delicate sushi, but at the same time can withstand the tastebud onslaught of the wasabi. Japanese Sake might be appropriate. Also known as “rice wine”, it is made by converting rice starch into sugar, which in turn is fermented into Sake. That means it is actually much more like beer, where grain starch undergoes a similar process. Slightly sweet, Sake will accompany sushi, but below are some white wines that should also work rather well because they are clean and fresh, yet powerfully fruity.
Fresh, unoaked whites
Domaine des Fontanelles Sauvignon Blanc 1999
The nose has wonderful cold-fermentation aromatics of pear-drops and lemon, there’s some grassiness too and the whole picture is very fresh. On the palate there is pure gooseberry and citrus fruit and nicely judged acidity. Cracking, easy-drinking French Sauvignon,
Arniston Bay Chenin/Chardonnay 1998
This South African wine is no shy and retiring beauty, with its 13.5% alcohol and candied tropical fruit, mandarin and peach aromas. The palate is dry and quite crisp, the fine acidity pushing the fruit towards grapefruit and lime. Clean, flavoursome and with good length.
Grain Sauvage Jurançon Sec 1998
I love both the dry and sweet wines of the little known French region of Jurançon (joo-rahn-sawn). This beautiful example has a lightly honeyed nose with aromas of straw and pear. The palate has good body and lots of pear, citrus and unusual herbal nuances. There is just a hint of sweetness, but the finish is dry and tangy with grapefruity acidity.
Domaine des Deux Roches St-Véran 1998
This is proper white Burgundy from one of the best producers in the Mâconnais region. A gorgeous unoaked Chardonnay with a typical nose of melon, pear, honeysuckle and a hint of butter. On the palate it is weighty and full-textured with clean flavours of apple and pear, a certain lusciousness and nuances of brazil nut and cinnamon.
Whites with a hint of oak, but fresh fruit
Domaine Gerovassiliou White Wine 1998
A Greek wine with a distinctive nettly, grassy nose, hints of roasted Indian spices and a buttery aroma. Lovely depth on the palate with spicy nuances, cool, fresh fruit and crisp acidity. Again that rich and buttery element shows up in both texture and flavour and this unusual and delicious wine finishes pure and long.
Argilo Vouvray 1997
Vouvray is a wine of the middle Loire made from the Chenin Blanc grape. Here 35 year old vines have been hand harvested and the wine has been fermented in small oak barrels. The result is a stunning wine with bready, buttery aromas, orange and pear fruit, some green apple freshness and hints of vanilla bean. The palate is delicious, long and beautifully balanced.