Italian Wine and Sushi

One of the wonderful things about living in such an open and inclusive world is that it paves the way for all sorts of different foods to make their way into the culinary lexicons of many people.

Of course, the Italians have always taken a great deal of pride in their food, and it’s not difficult to find Italian dishes in practically any part of the world. Be it pizza, pasta, or the many other great Italian foods on the market, the odds are good that you’ve eaten something Italian very recently.

But Italy is only one country. There are so many other foods in so many other countries for you to sample.

The Asian continent is a great example here. From the spicy foods of India through to the noodle-based foods of China, there are so many great foods to try in Asia for the foodie.

But those aren’t the countries that we’re going to travel to for today’s food. Instead, we’re going all of the way to the Far East and the great island nation of Japan for our foodie inspiration of this week.

But which of the many Japanese delicacies should we choose?

For us, sushi is the most entrancing. The very concept of eating raw fish is already a strange one to wrap your head around. We’re going to look at how this dish came to be and try to find a few different wines that you can try the next time you decide to sample some sushi.

The Early History

The earlies references to the whole concept of eating raw fish can be traced back to the 8thcentury and they stem from Southeast Asia. However, despite being known as a Japanese delicacy, sushi does not find its origins in the Land of the Rising Sun. In fact, it appears that sushi may have been born in South China, though it wasn’t long before the dish made its way to the country that it now calls home.

Back in those days, the fish would be salted and then wrapped tightly in a fermented rice to make a mixture of fish and rice. Those who’ve eaten sushi in the modern day will likely recognise this as being pretty similar to the way the dish is prepared today.

But it’s the reason behind this technique that’s perhaps the most interesting thing about it. Back in the 8thcentury, refrigeration wasn’t really a concept. People did use ice to preserve foods for a while. But this would only work for so long.

The fermented rice used in the production of sushi allowed for the preservation of the raw fish for months at a time. This, in turn, allowed for the dish to be transported for large distances or kept in storage for several weeks before being consumed.

The way that it was eaten was different too. Those who eat sushi today will happily gobble up both the fish and the rice. But back when it was first invented, the Japanese stripped away the rice and only ate the fish. This essentially meant that the fermented rice was seen as little more than a container, rather than a main part of the meal.

At least, that was what happened during the very early days of the dish coming to prominence. Over time, the Japanese started to eat the fish with a semi-fermented rice known as namanare.

This is when sushi transformed from a type of fish preservation method into something more closely resembling the dish that we eat today. When eaten with namanare, the fish wouldn’t be stored with the rice for later consumption. Instead, it was made fresh and the rice was used to complement the fish.

The Edo period brought with it some more changes to the sushi formula. It was during this period that haya-zushi (or fast sushi) was introduced. This new technique allowed the eater to consume both the fish and the rice at the same time, and it was also this new technique that made it completely unique to the Japanese culture. The rice was finally unfermented, which meant it lost all trace of its use as a storage method. Instead, it was mixed with vinegar and the sushi was eaten with vegetables and other dried foods.

And sushi hasn’t changed much in the years that have followed. Sure, there have been variations in the general formula and the way that it’s presented. But sushi is, and has been for many years, a combination of raw fish and rice that’s unmistakably Japanese. The move from using fermented rice to using regular rice saw sushi transformed from being a way to preserve fish into a genuine culinary delight.

The Best Wines to Pair with Sushi

So, let’s assume that you have a little bit of taste for sushi yourself.

What wines should you pair with it?

Perhaps the most obvious answer to this question is the Japanese rice wine known as sake. If you want perhaps the truest sushi sensation that it’s possible to get, sake may be your best choice. There’s also koshu, which is a white wine that’s native to Japan.

But what if you want to combine your sushi with an Italian wine?

If that’s the case, you’ll want to avoid red wines as far as possible. Though sushi is a tasty dish, it’s also very rarely rich. In fact, the lack of cooking lends it more subtle flavours than you may even expect from fish.

Instead, it’s Italian white wines that will make up the bulk of your drinking experience. Sparkling wines, such as a light Prosecco, work surprisingly well here. If you go down this route, it’s perhaps best to drink a drier variety of the wine.

Pinot Grigio is also an excellent choice for mixing with sushi. But generally speaking, anything that’s fairly light, breezy, and dry makes for a good combination with sushi.


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