Wine Ratings: How to pair with Japanese

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 9:52am

Japan is a cultural trendsetter in Asia. Wine is becoming commonplace and a popular beverage for women. France, Chile and Italy are the top three sources of imports.

Beer and sake have been the traditional accompaniments for Japanese cuisine but wine is now becoming increasingly popular. Japanese flavours tend to be delicate and cooking techniques highlight the freshness of the ingredients. So when it comes to pairing, the wine should not overwhelm the flavour of the dish. Koshu, an indigenous Japanese white grape variety, is a good pairing with most seafood dishes. In terms of style close alternatives are Chablis, Muscadet-Sevre et Maine and pinot grigio. If you are looking for alternatives that work with raw and cooked dishes, sparkling wine and Burgundy may be the answer.

Chef Masahiro Yoshitake from three-Michelin-star restaurant Sushi Yoshitake recommends Meursault for sashimi and sushi. Meursault is more restrained in style compared to New World wines but also possesses fruit concentration and will not dominate delicate fish flavours. Light red wines such as pinot noir or gamay from Beaujolais, with its lighter fruit aromatics and softer tannins, are versatile varieties that can accompany richer flavoured fish such as tuna as well as some meat dishes. Sparkling wines, particularly roses, are also a good partner with most Japanese dishes.

Maison Louis Latour was established in 1797. It is one of the largest negociant houses in Burgundy, meaning that most of the grapes are bought in from growers. The family business is now operated by an 11th generation member, Louis Fabrice Latour. He says that the advantage of being a large company means consistency in quality and style. The Latour house style focuses on full-bodied wines with power and moderate alcohol. Japan is its 4th largest export market, perhaps reflecting the affinity of Burgundy and Japanese cuisine.

Louis Latour Montagny 1er Cru La Grande Roche 2010

The fruit is sourced from a number of villages in the Cote Chalonnaise. The wine has been fermented in stainless steel and has no oak treatment, making it a good accompaniment for the more delicate flavours of Japanese dishes.

Melon, mineral notes on the nose. Medium bodied, citrus fruit, with refreshing acidity. Approachable and ready for drinking now. The wine will work well with hirame (flatfish such as fluke)and hamachi (yellowtail), and seafood including hotate (scallop) and ika (squid). HK$260

Louis Latour Meursault 1er Cru Chateau de Blagny 2009

This was considered an exceptional vintage, atypical for Burgundy as the wines display ripe fruit with lower acidity. The whites are ready for drinking and lower acid levels mean that ageing capacity may be limited.

Citrus, mineral notes on the nose. Medium bodied, showing balanced acidity, with some phenolics giving a slightly bitter finish. This wine has the concentration to work with fattier fish such as shake (salmon) and is good with teppanyaki such as ebi (prawn), robusuta-ebi (lobster) and kurobuta pork. HK$660

Louis Latour Chateau Corton Grancey Grand Cru 2002

The year 2002 was an excellent vintage for red Burgundy. Optimum harvest conditions ensured ripe fruit with balanced acidity. The top wines have the capacity for long-term ageing. Unfortunately, prices will tend to be high. Developed notes of mushroom, truffles and undergrowth. Full-bodied with good fruit intensity, balanced acid and long finish. Can drink now but has capacity to age for another decade. Works well with unagi (eel), and beef teppanyaki.


Wines are available from