Washoku is beautiful expressions of the finest seasonal ingredients with excellent refined. It is the essence of umami cooking. However, it is often a difficult cuisine to pair well with wine. Here are some suggestions to consider when pairing your next washoku dish!
The simplest of cooking preparations, but one of the most unforgiving because freshness is key. The seasons play a key role in when to consume the best the ingredients at it most optimal time. Not much is needed in terms of flavoring because the aim to enjoy the essence of the food. That is why when we pair namamono with wine, be conscious to not overpower the delicate flavors of the raw seafood with a powerful or expressive wine. Typically, we think to pair namamono with light and bright white wines so that the acidity of the wine balances out the gentle flavors of the food. Always remember to match the weight of the food. If the namamono has some fat, like toro or kanpachi, you can pair it with an off-dry or slightly sweet white wine or very light white and red wines. The sweetness plays well with the fattiness and the bright acids of the wine will help to cut through the fat. When eating raw dishes that are slightly metallic, like oysters or katsuo, always go lean and bright whites. But like all of our suggestions, always be open to experimentation!
Agemono is one of the most iconic types of Japanese cooking. Crunchy, salty, and and always perfectly deep fried, agemono is truly one of Japan's favorite comfort foods. When thinking about agemono, take into consideration if the dish is batter fried or panko dredge fried and if it has strong flavors like garlic. Typically when the food is batter fried, like tempura, it has a lighter finish. In this case, we would suggest pairing it with a light and acidic white wine or a crisp rosé. This will match the weight and help to cut through the oil. For foods that are panko dredged, the weight of the food will be slightly heavier and will come with a sauce, think tonkatsu or croquette with sauce. These types of foods go great with light white wines, but because of the weight of the food, they go great with light reds as well. Finally, with fried dishes with strong flavors like karaage, you can have fun with pairings because the light and heavier whites will match the weight of the dish, but the bright and slightly accented red or rosé wine will play very well with the strong flavors of the dish!
Another staple in Japanese cooking is nimono. The low and slow cooking process brings out a completely different and much more deep umami than when the ingredients are tasted in their raw form. The stewing process draws out the complex and concentrated umami notes of the dish, so these dishes can withstand broader styles of wine. The base of nimono cooking is dashi, which provides the extra layer of umami to the dish. When thinking about nimono dishes, try to think about whether the dish is only vegetables or if it contains protein. If the dish is vegetable oriented, like chikuzenni and oden, along with the weight of the food, try to match the umami in the dish with the umami in the wine. Heavier whites and light reds that have earthiness to them or mushroom qualities to them provide a wonderful balance to any nimono dish. For nimono with proteins like nizakana, kakuni, and motsuni, because the dish is heavier, it can withstand light to medium red wines. With sweeter nimono, try a slightly heavier red wine. For nimono with strong flavors, pair it with a wine that has some uniqueness or funkiness too!
The other major component to Japanese cooking is yakimono. At first, grilling seems like a very easy preparation, yet to capture and elevate the true essence of the ingredient, grilling is an artful all on its own. The salt to char ratio is a fine balance and making sure that the doneness of the dish precise is key to grilling. When pairing yakimono, taking into consideration if the dish is light or heavy adn if it is enjoyed with salt or with sauce. When salt is the only flavoring for a grilled dish like yakizakana, yakitori shio, and grill yasai, light and heavy whites as well as light red or rosé wines will match well. When grilling with sauce like yakitori tare, kabayaki, and yakiniku, try pairing with heavy whites and light to medium reds. However, if the grilled dish has weight like teppanyaki, then going medium to heavy reds will be delicious!