Wine on Starchefs
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Tips from Featured Sommelier Paul Tanguay

By Jim Clarke

On Saké:
Keep it Chilled
Be wary of buying saké from retailers who do not keep their product refrigerated. Like wine, which is susceptible to changes in temperature, saké is even more prone to spoilage if stored at room temperature. This is especially the case for premium sakés with a higher rate of semai buai (polishing ratio), like Ginjo-shu and Daiginjo-shu, and even more so for the unpasteurized Namazake.

Hot: Why not?
With the increasing amount of quality saké available in the U.S., coupled with the growing knowledge of the beverage, many now believe that premium saké should only be consumed cold. Though we worked hard to teach them that it is not all hot, we are now experiencing the backlash of our efforts. Many sakés benefit from a little warming (and please note, warming, not piping hot as to burn your mouth). The heavier style Junmai-shu and fortified Honjozo are great candidates for a cold winter day. However, warming Daiginjo-shu and Namazake will only rob them of their finer qualities.

On Wine:
No Reason To Celebrate
Champagne and sparkling wines are great choices for pairing with your sushi/sashimi outings, but many believe a special occasion is require to drink these majestic wines. With pronounced acidity and minerality, they work wonders with raw fish. However, if Champagne’s sticker prices scare you, look out for other bubblies like Spanish Cava or American sparkling wines made by the “méthode traditionelle” or the “méthode champenoise”. The money saved could be reason to celebrate.

Oh Sherry!
While many people associate sherry with their grandma’s late-night drink, it actually pairs extremely well with sushi and sashimi, especially chilled finos & manzanillas. These world-class wines are not just for old-school drinkers, but should find their way on new school diners’ tables as well.

On Alcohol:
Forget Vodka: It’s Sho-time
With an over-saturated, tasteless and odorless vodka market, shochu presents itself as a perfect mixing alternative for tasty cocktails. This clear alcohol (18% to 41% alc/vol.) made from either mugi (barley), kome (rice) or imo (potato) is delicious when mixed in traditional cocktails as a substitution for vodka or simply blended with fresh juices.

The Rum-Tequila Alternative
Cachaça has long been considered the national alcohol of Brazil, of which the U.S. has only seen the mass-produced, industrial rubbing alcohols of Cachaça 51 and Pitu. Be on the look-out for high quality brands such as Beleza Pura, Rochinca. Aramzem Vieira & GRM making their way into the U.S. market (for more info visit Besides making great caiprinihas, some of these cachaças rival any great sipping rums and tequilas and show great versatility in recreating such popular standards as the margarita, mojito and cosmopolitan.

Related Links:
  • Asian Food and Wine
  • Sushi and Wine
  • Cal-Asian Cuisine
  • Hitachino Nest Beers

  •  Published: November 2004