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Japanese food & wine pairing

The sensation of balance on the palate between contrasting tastes and textures is the essence of the successful matching of food and wine.

Based on the notion that a refined cuisine deserves fine wines and local wines are best drunk with local specialties, sake breweries in Japan produce an incredibly diverse range of flavors to complement the Japanese cuisine. The prominent fruit in Sake works well as an aperitif or paired with baked fish and vegetables, Sake can also be moderately sweet and capable of bringing out the richness in a dish, while a dry Sake can set the stage for a clean fresh seafood dish.

Most Japanese restaurants do venture beyond Sake and match foods of subtle flavors with delicate grape wines, and select aromatic wines with rich bouquets for foods with stronger flavors. Rounded tannins and balanced oak work well with tuna, salmon and swordfish although one should be careful when venturing beyond Sangiovese, Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc. A nice choice for the richer and spicy is Syrah, Zinfandel or Pinotage but for the adventurous one a tempranillo from Spain or a Dolcetto or Teroldego may prove to be a match made in Heaven. And this is exactly what we tried, when we tested some new pairings at KOO in Rye. KOO is located at 17 Purdy Avenue, Rye, NY 10580.

Pinot Noir, great with the seaweed salad, salmon, red tuna or richer sushi rolls, the stainless Chardonnay is also a great choice while a delicate Pinot Blanc gives an elegant balance of flavor to the fatty textures of the Salmon and mixes perfectly with the richer sushi. A Sauvignon Blanc will always work well with California rolls, spicy sauces and wasaby.  The crispiness of a Riesling works extremely well with red tuna and salmon while the acidity level intermingles with the slight smokiness of the eel and cuts through the layers of spicier Japanese foods.

A Gewurztraminer or a Beaujolais will also work well with the spicy Japanese cuisine and the bubbly texture of Prosecco or Champagne will pair very well with a variety of Japanese dishes. The Grüner Veltliner from Austria is a revelation with lighter meats such as chicken, pork and veal or meatier white fish like bass and cod and all shellfish soups and vegetable dishes, especially asparagus. The Vermentino is perfect with fried squid and spicy shrimp. You can also try a sparkling Pinot Noir, recently I have tried a Magot, a white sparkling made from red grapes. Light straw yellow, intense, fragrant and floral on the nose, crisp and well balanced. Magot is great as an aperitif, with  seafood, and I can’t wait to pair it with the seaweed salad and experiment with the richer sushi rolls.

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