Wine of the Week: French wines, sushi make for fantastic pairing

As cherry blossoms depart and tourists arrive, D.C.’s transition from spring to summer is underway. And with Memorial Day just a week away — and more restaurants emerging from their post-COVID cocoon — there is one thing I am genuinely excited to take full advantage of — sushi.

While I know you can eat sushi at home, somehow enjoying sushi at a restaurant during the summer weather seems to make the ama-ebi (sweet shrimp) taste just a tad sweeter, and the spicy tuna rolls just a little bit zestier.

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Japanese beer and sake were considered the only acceptable adult beverages to enjoy with traditional servings of maki rolls and nigiri.

But all of that has changed, thanks in part to open-minded sushi restaurateurs who have included thoughtful wine selections in their establishments, including French wines.

I know, I know … French wines and sushi? It might not be the first food-and-wine pairing you think of. But given that there are so many sushi dishes and just as many styles of wine in France, finding the right combination can be fantastique!

Here are a few choice selections to look out for at your favorite sushi restaurant or to pick up with your carryout order.

There is a reason that beer goes so well with sushi. It’s the bubbles! That’s one reason I really like to enjoy sparkling wines with sushi dishes. The nonvintage Chevalier Brut Cremant de Bourgogne, from the Burgundy region of France, is one of the best values in bubbly on the market today. The tiny bubbles carry scents of white flowers and lemon zest, while flavors of crisp apple and tart nectarine play on the tongue. The hint of tangy citrus on the crisp finish would pair beautifully with the rich texture of avocado found in California rolls. $22

Wines from the Alsace region of France can be a heavenly match with sushi, like the 2017 Trimbach Gewurztraminer. This lovely white wine exhibits a floral bouquet of nectarine, Lychee nut and nutmeg. Flavors of mango and passion fruit are built on a slightly spicy frame, but the crisp acidity keeps the flavors focused and clean. Hints of tangy ginger on the finish make this an ideal pairing with sweet shrimp. $22

The 2018 Rothschild Blanc Selection Prestige from the Bordeaux region of France is a tremendous value from the owners of the famed Chateau Lafite Rothschild. A blend of sauvignon blanc and Semillon, this version features a fragrant nose with scents of tropical fruit and lemon-lime that also show up on the palate. Additional flavors of honeydew melon and peach are perfectly balanced by crisp acidity. The slightly softer finish, featuring lingering notes of citrus and minerals, would go well with yellow tail. $20

Pinot Noir wines are a fantastic pairing with richer fish, such as salmon and tuna. The substantial weight and grip of the 2018 Domaine Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne Rouge from the Burgundy region of France is a great choice for pairing with sake (salmon) or toro (tuna). Made by one of Burgundy’s most famous producers, this elegant Pinot Noir features a wonderful bouquet of wild strawberry, black plum and graphite. Concentrated flavors of ripe Rainier cherry, dark strawberry, spice and violets are in balance with the firm tannins and abundant acidity. A stunning wine. $25

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