Concha y Toro

Ania Smolec 11/02/2014

Meet the ambassador of Japanese cuisine: sushi and its wine pairing

Sushi is always composed from three basic elements: shari (rice), nori (algae) and neta (other ingredients).


Sushi is always composed from three basic elements: shari (rice), nori (algae) and neta (other ingredients).

  • Shari: white, short-grained, cooked Japanese rice mixed with a dressing consisting of vinegarsugar and salt. Before using it into the sushi, rice has to be cooled to room temperature to be more plastic.
  • Nori :the black seaweed wrappers made from an algae.
  • Neta: all other ingredients, the most common is raw fish or seafood.

The various chefs have their individual methods. In Japan are several regional styles. The rice vinegar dressing style varies the most (it can be more or less sweet or salty).


In other countries you can find different ingredients like vegetables and cheeses, like in Californian rolls. In Japan depends on which part of the country the rolls come from. Sushi style chefs use also pickled radishpickled vegetables, fermented soybeans, etc. Traditional versus contemporary methods of assembly may create very different results from similar ingredients.

The rolled presentation of sushi can be numerous, for example makizushi (rolled sushi) or norimaki (nori roll) are formed with the help of a bamboo mat in a characteristic cylindrical piece. Sushi can be also served as a portion of all ingredients called Nigirizushi (hand-pressed sushi). The rice is pressed into a small rectangular box between the palms of the hands, usually with a bit of wasabi, and a topping (the neta) draped over it. Neta are typically fishes, such as salmontuna or other seafood.

Sushi is normally served with a small soy sauce portion. This condiment is for flavoring the topping, not the rice. The rice would absorb too much soy sauce and would fall apart. If it is difficult to turn the sushi upside-down, one can baste it in soy sauce using gari (sliced ginger) as a brush. The role of the soy sauce is to enhance the flavors, not cover them.Sushi is about freshness of fish in the arms of rice.


In Japan wasabi (Japanese radish) is usually added to the roll, for instance between the rice and the topping of the algae. Some people prefer to mix it into their soy sauce when eating sushi, others prefer to rub a tiny bit of the spicy green paste on the sushi before dipping. This actually makes the wasabi taste slightly spicier, but not so much that it interferes with the delicate sushi flavors.

The saltiness of soy sauce and spiciness of those condiments are not an issue in the subject of wine pairing the sushi. If their use is moderate, they don’t challenge wine in a particular way. But the raw fish is a difficult one! Makes wine to taste metallic, and is rich in an umami taste.

That’s why most number of maki rolls works very well with crispy white wines like Marques de Casa Concha Sauvignon Blanc from the coastal Leyda Valley.

The umami taste cancels out also the tannins of the wine, allowing the fruit flavors and some floral notes to appear in this matching, while the tannins of the wine give the shape to the umami. If your rolls are with raw tuna fish, don’t hesitate to open a Marques de Casa Concha Pinot Noir form Limarí Valley.

To more international style rolls, containing for example Philadelphia cheese, vegetables, shrimps, crab, etc, the optimal choice will be Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay from Limarí Valley for its fine body and mineral notes.