Sherry Wine News

Japanese culinary adventure

One of the UK's leading food writers - Fiona Beckett - takes us on a culinary Japanese adventure with Sherry

It was the wasabi salt that really blew us away. Tempura, yes, you’d expect to go with manzanilla (after all, fish and chips works perfectly) but the punchy hot salt just took the pairing to another level.

We were having lunch at Aqua Kyoto, in the heart of London’s west end, to road-test different sherries with their modern Japanese food. It was an experiment we all felt confident would work - we’d all tried sherry with Japanese food before but what was fascinating was the range of flavours and possibilities the exercise revealed.

With the two manzanillas, Barbillo’s Solear and Delgado Zuleta’s La Goya we also tried warm edamame beans (excellent with the slightly salty Solear) and an intensely umami seaweed salad which had a love-in with the La Goya.

The only combination that didn’t quite work - and you always come across a rogue combination in a food and wine pairing - was the chicken yakitori with fresh truffle. The marinade was just too sweet and sticky for the drier styles wines. When we sneaked a sip of Gonzalez Byass Viña AB amontillado which was lined up for the main course dishes, however it was a revelation. Yakitori and amontillado - who knew? 

Next we had a range of wildly creative, colourful maki rolls involving obscure ingredients such as ebi tobiko (no, me neither) beetroot yuba, nuka miso cucumber and ponzu pearls with two contrasting finos, Lustau’s La Ina and Valdespino’s slight more complex, textured Inocente. Such was the bombardment of different flavours I honestly can’t tell you which matched better with what but one can over-think these things.

The simple message should be that fino is great with sushi. You should try it.

"Fino is great with sushi, you should try it!" Fiona Beckett 1 of 7
Yakitori with truffles, a revelation with amontillado 2 of 7
Omakase and fino - who knew, yum. 3 of 7
Fiona Beckett’s new e-book 101 great ways to enjoy sherry is available from her website 4 of 7
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7 of 7

Next a whole array of main course dishes for our amontillados - the AB again and Williams & Humbert’s 12 y.o. Don Zoilo amontillado. I would say the AB was probably the more accommodating of the battery of different tastes - savoury, sweet and umami: fantastic with some Japanese mushroom green tea soba noodles with gingko nuts and a divine sort of truffley porridge of silken tofu with truffle snake sauce which hopefully didn’t include real snake. (Is there a truffle snake?). It also sailed through the sweet-ish, sticky flavours of roasted Chilean seabass (just as it had conquered the yakitori) but the Don Zoilo had its moment with an intensely rich dish of Wagyu beef bavette with umeshu shallots, egg tofu and wild herbs, slicing through the rich, slightly fatty texture of the meat like a razor. Just gorgeous.

Then just as we found one starter went better with the amontillado, I’d have reverted to a cleansing fino with the last of our mains, a spicy omakase of Japanese vegetables and rice. Can you do this during a tasting menu? Absolutely and if you feel like it you should.

Our final course of ice-creams and sorbets with mochi was a bit of a struggle for the delicous Harveys 12 y.o. Signature cream sherry that accompanied it - apart from the one that included coconut, another potentially fertile line of investigation. I would stick to PX with ice cream.

So what to take away from all this? That sherry is a perfect accompaniment for Japanese food but that you really need two styles - fino or manzanilla to start with then amontillado for the richer, main course dishes. And that sherry has a great affinity with umami. Food for thought and further experiments!

A nice little postscript. It seems that a surprising number of Japanese, who are understandably keen on sherry, have mastered the art of pouring it from a great height. There are apparently 120 wannabe venenciadores in Japan a number of whom are about to take an exam to get their full certification. Young Japanese women are apparently particularly keen to acquire this skill. The mainly male venciadores of Jerez better watch out!

Fiona Beckett’s new e-book 101 great ways to enjoy Sherry is available from her website  

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of El Consejo Regulador.
Fiona Beckett
Fiona Beckett is one of the UK’s most highly respected, award‑winning food and drink journalists, authors and web publishers with 22 years of experience of writing for the UK’s top newspapers and magazines. She is currently a wine columnist for The Guardian and contributing editor to the wine magazine Decanter. She has written 23 books including “Food, Wine & Friends” that offers a collection of ‘simple menus for great entertaining’.
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Fiona Beckett @winematcher
09 January 2017
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