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Pairing Wine with Sushi

Linkwood: The Right Call

Is it even possible? HK Golfer wine expert Robin Lynam assesses the options


Oyvind Naesheim

n appearance of simplicity can be deceptive. Just as there is an art to acidity, and Riesling would be more fruity. The presenting sushi and sashimi so that they appeal to the eye as much taste of the shrimp is very delicate and, as such, as to the palate, there is an art to matching them with fine wine. requires a wine without any oak influence and no Conventional wisdom is that the perfect wine to partner malolactic fermentation. It has to be clean and lean the whole range of sushi and sashimi options is Champagne, with acidity to boost the flavour of the shrimp.” but not according to John Chan, senior assistant manager of Eel is t he on ly f ish for wh ich Cha n Nobu at the InterContinental Hong Kong. recommends red wine, and he suggests “Champagne is a multi-match wine, because it cleans all flavours in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape because of its minimal palate, but it does not help to develop another level of enjoyment in terms of the oak, sweet ripeness and smoky earthy notes. flavour,” says Chan, who has made a detailed study of the subject. Egg is particularly tricky to pair with wine, In Chan’s opinion there is no single wine that will enhance the full sushi and but Chan reckons that tamagoyaki will work with sashimi range, although he accepts that at a push a good white Burgundy will New World Chardonnay and likes to select buttery do. He does recommend Champagne with tuna and caviar. wines from the Napa Valley for that purpose. Kazuhiro Ugaeri, who manages Nadaman at the Island Shangri-La, recommends “Egg does not go well with acidic wine. As Chablis as a multipurpose such, egg omelette sushi seafood wine, and is a believer would be perfect with a in Champagne as a good Chardonnay with a sweet A match made in heaven? general match. spiced background,” he “Dr y white wines claims. such as Sauvignion Blanc, Wine is now a popular Chardonnay, French Chablis, pairing with Japanese Champagne, Pinot Grigio food both in Japan and and Trebbiano match well overseas, and in Nobu with sushi or sashimi. The Chan says customers who wine softens the fishy taste drink alcohol are split and sometimes enhances the about 50/50 between original taste and flavour of those who choose wine seafood,” says Ugaeri. and those who order Chan is inclined to match sake or cocktails. The different wines to different restaurant offers a special fish, and has a number of omakase menu wit h favourite combinations. different wines paired with For salmon he each course, including recommends a creamy style sushi and sashimi white such as Meursault - a selections. However, sake, 100% Chardonnay wine which has undergone malolactic fermentation but still the traditional match, he believes, is still the best has enough acidity to balance the palate. partner to sushi because of its affinity with the rice. For scallops he suggests dry white Bordeaux, preferably from Graves because “Wine is a different and dramatic pairing of its Semillon focus. with sushi and sashimi. Sake is a more subtle “This noble grape from Southern Bordeaux is also used for making Sauternes, and traditional pairing. I think cold sake has however this white Bordeaux , while having a dry style, also has the rich advantages over tea, especially because of the characteristics of a dessert wine, which is to say it is honeyish and slightly dryish temperature. It is preferable not to mix hot with a heavier texture,” says Chan. drinks with cold dishes,” he says. For sea-urchin he suggests going all the way to Sauternes, but choosing a Ugaeri is also a sake fan, but more supportive of tea than Chan. modern relatively drier style with slightly more Sauvignon Blanc in the cepage. “If you simply want to enjoy sushi, I “It has a little bit more freshness when compared to the grand old style of Sauternes, recommend green tea,” he says. “Green tea but without giving up too much on the viscosity and concentration” he argues. For sweet shrimp a slightly sweet but less concentrated wine, Chan thinks, is cleanses your palate before each serving of sushi or sashimi. As the sushi rice contains sugar and called for, and he recommends a clean totally unoaked white. “It can be Pinot Blanc or Riesling from Alsace, depending on the diner’s palate vinegar, it can leave one's mouth a little dry, and and preference towards the sweetness level. Pinot Blanc would be more focused on green tea is perfect for quenching thirst.” 24

HK Golfer・APR/MAY 2010


HK Golfer whisky editor John Bruce writes on the qualities of this fine Speyside malt


n my other life, when not writing this column, I’m employed by a risk consultancy. I have therefore come to understand the importance of making informed choices at pivotal moments and the potential consequences of making the wrong call. For example, if Paris had disdained Greek equine woodwork the Iliad might have had a “director’s cut”. It was the viewing of another “classic” – Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero – that inspired this pondering on the great “what ifs” of life. The 1983 film, for those of you lucky enough to have a first viewing ahead of you, tells the tale of an attempt by a US company, Knox Oil, to build an oil terminal in Ferness, a tiny coastal village in the northwest of Scotland. The project would make the small population of the village immensely wealthy but would destroy a pristine natural environment. The tale does not need retelling here but a short sequence about 30 minutes into t he f i l m prov ided me with the aforementioned inspiration. The main A merican character played by Peter Riegert is in the bar and tries a malt whisky. He is given what the landlord describes as a 42-yearold McCaskill but, as the landlord reaches for the bottle, clearly visible on the shelf beside it is bottle of that fine Speyside malt, Linkwood. This was not exactly a wrong call but it was definitely an opportunity missed. Located near Elgin in Morayshire, the picturesque Linkwood distillery was established in 1821 by Peter Brown and although no longer a family concern, the distillery has a magnificent reputation for “unremitting vigilance” in the production process. The story is often told of Roderick Mackenzie, the distillery manager in the 1930s who forbade the removal of even spider webs in case the quality of the whisky was adversely affected. This dedication has made HKGOLFER.COM

Linkwood one of the finest of single malts. There is, however, a catch as less than two percent of the whisky is marketed as single malt with the remainder being used by the distillery owners, United Distillers, in the production of well known brands such as Bells and White Horse. The distillery markets a 12-year-old in its Flora & Fauna series that is both fruity and smoky with an almost sweet finish and which is quite delightful in itself. There is also a 12-year-old matured in sherry casks, in which the sherry flavours are quite dominant, that is similarly enjoyable. However, as with many single malts that are available in relatively small quantities, it is the productions of the independent bottlers that do true justice to this whisky. This is, in itself, somewhat ironic as the distillery itself was historically a strong protectionist. Elgin Golf Course was built on land owned by the distillery and for many years the only malt whisky allowed to be sold in the bar was Linkwood. One independent bottler whose Linkwood has recently become more readily available in Hong Kong is Gordon and McPhail. Their 18-year-old Gordon Linkwood's picturesque distillery. and McPhail Reserve is more evocative of rich fr u its, even of gi nger and less smoky than the 12-year-old marketed by the distillery and the finish will appeal to devotees of the Speyside malts as it is almost entirely devoid of peaty overtones. There are many other Linkwood bottlings that I have yet to sa mple, a lt hough I have heard consistently complimentary assessments of their quality and I am hopeful that very soon I shall be sharing a few drams of a particularly well renowned Gordon and McPhail bottling with the esteemed publisher of this magazine. Whilst reputedly raking through his attic in his Scottish home for the ten shilling postal order that his Granny gave him in 1969, with which he intended to pay his editor’s bonus, he came across a bottle of Linkwood 50-year-old. In a display of unprecedented generosity he offered to share it with a well known Hong Kong banker and myself. My lawyer has a copy of the e-mail and I expect to be more successful than Tony Chan in the event of any dispute. The decision by any whisky lover to sample any of the Linkwood expressions would be as right for the aficionado as the choice to go paddling on the eighteenth at Carnoustie in 1999 was wrong for poor old Jean Van de Velde. In Local Hero, the construction project is “Trumped” after the head of Knox Oil, played by the late Burt Lancaster, has a change of heart after encountering the local characters and their enduring culture. I feel the Aberdeen councillors responsible for planning permission would benefit from a fresh viewing of Forsyth’s masterpiece, perhaps accompanied by a few glasses of Linkwood. HK Golfer・APR/MAY 2010



HK Golfer whisky editor John Bruce writes on the qualities of this fine Speyside malt A match made in heaven? Linkwood's picturesque distill...