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Food & Drink

Wine & Sushi

This is Your Wine on Acid: Considering acid, fruit and oak, especially with sushi.

By Francis Fecteau
Posted // September 30,2009 -

I rolled the wine around my mouth and sure enough, snap! The telltale lemonlime ping of a poorly executed acid correction pinched my tongue. Acid correction is a winemaking “fix,” where a winemaker adds citric or tartaric acid, post-fermentation, to correct the balance of the wine. In this case, they’d used citric acid, giving it the mouthfeel of lemon juice in water. Wine shouldn’t taste like that, ever. Why, it’s the sort of thing that would make a wine drinker biased against acid-corrected wines!

DrinkA_091001.jpgIt was a sour snarl at the start of an otherwise brilliant sushi meal. A bottle of Luigi Bosca “Gala 3” ($25)—a mostly tank-fermented blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Riesling—saved the moment. I would tell you the name of the bottle of vile bile that got my meal off to such a bitter start, but wine salesmen are a touchy bunch; sleazy and duplicitous we may be, it’s still a hard enough job without me making such pronouncements. The Bosca “Gala 3” on the other hand, showed impeccable depth, richness and refreshing acidity. It also proved a marvelous foil for higher acid seafood selections and fattier fish like tuna, especially so when touched with wasabi.

This particular sushi meal was a good “instructional” in food and wine pairing dos and don’ts. Great sushi is an exercise in clean, bold flavors that demand clean, bold, competently made, well-balanced wines.

With each passing dish, the sushi selections sang with fresher, brighter wines and fell on tin ears when exposed to obvious viticultural manipulation. Red or white, a wine must emphasize fruit when playing with raw fish. Well … how do you determine which is which and what is what?

When a wine geek uses the phrase “emphasize fruit,” it refers to a wine that hasn’t met excessive manipulation—the use of new oak, acid corrections or malolactic fermentation. Don’t get me wrong, these are all legitimate things to do in crafting a wine’s style; it’s just that more often than not, these manipulations create a less foodfriendly wine. But if a wine doesn’t see the use of new oak, acid correction or isn’t put through that malicto-lactic fermentation (which softens the wine—especially so with whites), it shows more acidity and liveliness, concentrating the wine’s flavor more to the center of the palate.

So, think in terms of heft and acidity: Sauvignon Blanc, for instance, most always shows more tartness and acidity than Chardonnay. It ripens sooner, almost always has less sugar and, therefore, less alcohol and less glycerol.

Glycerol is the sugar alcohol that helps create an unctuous palate texture. Consider region, too—cooler climate wines show more acidity. Reading the label helps; higher alcohol usually indicates a bigger wine, and, most times, winemakers tell you if they are using oak. Yes, it really is that simple. Since all reds go through a certain amount of manipulation (i.e. malolactic fermentation, which is optional for many whites), pairing reds with certain sushi selections can be challenging, especially with the excess of oak common in so many reds.

DrinkB_091001.jpgAs the final dishes arrived—the finest incarnation of pork belly ever known (thank you, Takashi!) and a portion of eel—all of the reds, larded with roof-of-themouth-drying oak tannins, fell flat and tinny except for a Pinot Noir. It showed minimal oak, magnificent richness and met the food without dissonance or heaviness. Again, an Argentine saved the day: Luigi Bosca’s Reserve Pinot Noir ($20) was a brilliant foil and complement.

But then again, I am biased. I like harmonious wines.

Francis Fecteau is owner of Libation Inc., a wine brokerage in Salt Lake City.

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Post a comment
Posted // October 5,2009 at 14:24

Here we go again ... jtwine77, comments like yours show off the pettiness in this small pond of SLC. What? Is Fecteau, YOUR competitor? if you seriously have a problem with a well-written insightful article about personal experiences with wine [because it is personal] then you'll be spending even more time with wine idiots and know it alls. Pieces like these, whoever they pimp, try to get something beyond REDS WITH MEAT and WHITES WITH FISH generic bull shit that can make this place so bloody droll. Check your bloody facts, too, before you accuse a piece of editorial as being advertisement.


Posted // October 15,2009 at 02:06 - jtwine77 - wasabi isnt angry just honest. From a recent Craig's List SLC ad - "Looking for Sommelier Group - respond to JTWine77". ARE in the business, your use of the SOM abbreviation is enough to know this, and you do spend a lot of time with wine geeks and know-it-alls (and I am sure a few idiots). You accuse me of bias (I offer to prove objectivity), the broker who does sell the wines disproves your assertion and nary a peep from you. My competitors write and mention many more wines of their own, nary a peep from you. I mention no wines at all, you complain. I mention specific wines that aren't mine, you complain. I know you meant no offense, but your initial comments were offensive. Do you seriously think somms and educators (or you) aren't biased? I built a professional rep based on honest objectivity, mentioning competitors wines as often as my own. That said, if you have time to complain, you have time to write - a better use of your time than disingenuous anonymous emails. CW is friendly toward freelancers, you are in the business, I am sure you have some wine wisdom to offer.


Posted // October 8,2009 at 11:20 - Wow,wasabi, you need a drink. Why so angry? I can assure you I'm not Fecteau's competitor nor do I spend my time with wine idiots and know it alls. I just prefer the CW articles that avoid coming off as ads. Fecteau has done better work. bluenote and wineslut - I mean no personal offense. Hell, without you guys around, all the UDABC would sell is Yellowtail and Alice White.......(oh god, now wasabi is going to think I hate all Australians). Forget I said anything.


Posted // October 2,2009 at 09:30

C'mon CW, when are you going to do away with these thinly-disguised advertisements by sleazy, duplicitous and biased brokers (his words, not mine). I'd bet my last dollar the wines named are Fecteau's brands. Stick with the local soms and educators. CW has enough ads already.


Posted // October 5,2009 at 09:18 - Thank you Francis for mentioning my wines in your recent article. I appreciate the accolade especially when it comes from one of my peers. I would also like to thank Gus McGann, Louis Koppel, Ted Scheffler and others for their support in past articles regarding the brands we represent in Utah. All brokers in the state of Utah engage in a highly competitive market. We all are trying to gain a edge over the our counterparts. I have the utmost respect for anyone that gives kudos to competitors brands in an unbiased atmosphere. Best regards Jeff Carter Southern Wine Spirits West Utah


Posted // October 3,2009 at 03:20 - Hi there JTwine77 -- I will be happy to take your last dollar. The brands mentioned are not in my portfolio, but that of Southern Wine & Spirits, a much larger competitor - I would be happy to send you a copy of my portfolio to prove my objectivity. Believe it or not, I can acknowledge a great wine even when its not in my portfolio. For some strange reason I suspect you are in the wine business as you've taken no objection to any other broker authored columns, such as those by a former associate at Vinelore (two of four mentioned were his). CW has a strict rule that for every one wine of mine I mention, I must mention four others from my competition. Hence, my last several columns have mentioned no specific brands at all.