Cremant or Japanese Beer
"Sparkling wine and Japanese beer are sushi's BFFs. The idea is that both of these beverages keep the palate cleansed so you can focus on the quality of the sushi. For sparkling wine, get a nice Cremant (a French sparkling wine made in the Champagne method from a region outside of Champagne.) Cremants give you some of the complexity you crave from a Champagne but for a fraction of the price. J. Laurens and Macle are both tasty. For a cool Japanese beer, check out Koshihikari Echigo."—Josiah Baldivino, Michael Mina (San Francisco)
Cool Climate Whites
"Think high altitude, cool climate whites—head to the Alps! On all sides of the Alps and in all surrounding countries you’ll find tremendous mineral wine with subtle fruit tones that will enhance accentuate the flavors of the sushi, without overpowering. In France go-to regions are Savoie and Jacquere-based wines from Abymes or Apremont; in Italy Alto Adige makes great Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and lesser known Kerner; in Austria, Gruner Veltliners will offer great value."—Caleb Ganzer, Eleven Madison Park (New York)
"Sushi is light, delicate and subtle. It is fresh and clean and the best wines for sushi complement that. Try a coastal Italian white wine like Vermentino Liguria or Verdicchio from le Marche or the delicious Venica & Venica Friulano. Something off the beaten path but delicious would be the subtle, delicious Assyrtiko from the Greek island of Santorini."—Joe Campanale, L'Apicio and Anfora (NYC)
Chablis, Chenin Blanc, Champagne
"With sushi, I like the wine to be a background note so that the ingredients take center stage. Stick with mineral driven, high acid whites. Chablis is the ultimate for me. Search for the wines of Louis Michel where all wine is vinified in stainless steel resulting in a truly pure expression of Chardonnay. Chenin Blanc from the appellation of Savennières in the Loire Valley is crisp and lean and can be a great match for non-classical sushi that has more fusion elements; Domaine des Beaumard makes a classic example. If none of these options present themselves, Champagne is always a safe bet (and again here, the drier the better; these styles will be designated Extra Brut and even drier, Brut Zéro)."—Ehren Ashkenazi, The Modern (NYC)
"With sushi, I'm partial to bubbles. Just like sneaking a piece of gari between bites helps to cleanse your palate and experience more nuance within the meal, I love sipping a nice, crisp glass of Champagne for the same reason. Sparkling wines are fun with the vinegar-seasoned rice and generally don't overwhelm delicate seafood and vegetables. To accompany sushi, I'm partial to the Champagnes from the Côtes des Blancs and more refined Cavas from Penedès."—Eamon Rockey, Aska (Brooklyn)
Depends on the Fish
With delicate white sushi, such as yellowtail, I always opt for a nice Gruner Veltliner that has a nice kick. Schloss Gobelsburg is a great choice as the wines normally have a nice minty spice and some thickness of texture as well. The white pepper and green apple notes do not conflict with the wasabi and ginger and make it a versatile choice. When it comes to uni or eel, you need a wine that has great citrus notes: a nice Sancerre or dry Riesling.
While traveling in Burgundy (of all places!) I got a great sushi pairing tip. Becky Wasserman told me that Pinot Noir was the best bet with sushi. When it comes to tuna and char, it is a mind blowing match. I really like Oregon Pinots with sushi as they have wonderful fruit, great acid, and a bit of earthiness as well. Domaine Serene is always a great option as the winery holds the vintages back so you can get a Pinot Noir with at least a few years of age."—Natalie Tapken, Lure and Burger & Barrel (NYC)
"I cannot allow myself not to mention that I nearly always split my sushi meals between wine and sake. Sake rules. With nearly everything. It is my jam.
If you're going to a good sushi place, then the sweetness of the rice is far less a concern for wine pairing than matching the weight of the fish and that great umami stuff that you get with the better sushi. In general, I tend to rely on Chardonnay-based wines for good sushi, but at the very high-toned side of the scale. Blanc de blancs Champagnes (decanted), Chablis or a nice white Burgundy. Growers I like in Champagne include Lassaigne, Bereche, and Agrapart (Full disclosure, I help to import Bereche). Chablis producers that come to mind include Duplessis, Tribut, Dauvissat, and William Fevre. A great value is the Petit Chablis made by Brocard, under the Hervé Azo label. Another is the Petit Chablis from the Canadian transplant, Patrick Piuze. Bourgogne blancs from Joseph Roty, Rollin, and JP Fichet are all great."—Collin Casey, Namu Gaji (San Francisco)
Acid All The Way
"High acid white wines are the best if you’re not drinking sake. Champagne (or Cava) is always excellent. I’d also try Sauvignon Blanc or Muscadet from the Loire Valley. The general concept here being that the salty and light bodied nature of sushi (especially with soy sauce in the equation) naturally pairs well with high acid."—Adam Chumas, Tom Douglas Restaurants (Seattle)
"Champagne with sushi. It’s insane, and worth every penny. If you’re paying 10 bucks for a centimeter and a half of perfect raw fish, what’s unreasonable making sure the beverage accompanying it is as fine? And if some of the rolls you tend toward have a core of deep fried soft-shell crab or whatnot, nothing goes better with deep fry than bubbles. (That said, many sushi restaurants won’t have a selection of Champagne on hand, and that’s OK—if there’s a Spanish Cava available, go for it.)"—Chris Horn, Purple Cafe (Seattle)
Riesling or Scheurebe
"Dry Rieslings are great with sushi. Or Scheurebe Trocken, which as beautiful aromatics and a crisp dry finish. I recommend Pfeffingen Scheurebe Trocken, Pfalz 2010."—Amy Goldberger, Fifth Floor (San Francisco)
New-School or Old-School?
"On one hand we have the more traditional style of sashimi and nigiri: subtle, simple, quality-driven, delicate. In this case you generally want to choose something that “speaks softly, but has a lot of great things to say” (Try Delille “Chaleur Estate” white blend from Washington or Domaine Trimbach Riesling from Alsace, France.) On the other hand, you have the more contemporary sushi roll; experimental, fun. There’s not really any rule here, so pick something different and play around. Maybe something that’s vibrant and playful, with out being overbearing. I like Hou Hou Sparkling Sake and Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages from France."—Lee Spires, Aqua by El Gaucho (Seattle)