- The Italian restaurant Tokoharu was one of the first in Sapporo to offer food and drink pairings. “Around the time we started offering pairings, I began to realize that what customers are looking for is not just a delicious meal, pleasant environment, and enjoyable time, but also a story,” says the restaurant’s owner, Takeaki Murata. Their Hokkaido Whole Pairing Course HINNA allows such customers to enjoy stories about the producers that he and the restaurant staff visited one by one together. The course consists of seven dishes featuring ingredients produced in Hokkaido, and six types of alcoholic beverages also from the region. For example, a pasta in a rich sauce of sweet shrimp is served with Second Vin Rosé from Hirakawa Winery, where sommelier Misaki Sakata goes every year to help with the harvest. A robust wine with an excellent balance of fruitiness, aroma and acidity, the rosé enhances the rich umami of the shrimp while also feeling refreshing.
- Ms. Sakata usually recommends wines that go perfectly with the dishes created with flair by chef Kazuhiro Sawaii; however, she occasionally likes to intentionally test bad pairings herself. As she explains, “Some wines are delicious alone, but when paired with food, they might bring out the fishiness of a fish dish, for example. By thinking about the reasons why, it will help me to better convey the beauty of a great wine pairing.”
- Meanwhile, Hirakawa Winery owner Atsuo Hirakawa explains that he feels happier when people say “This wine tastes delicious when paired with this dish,” rather than when they praise the wine alone.
- Mr. Hirakawa, who also works as a sommelier, says “I want to create wines that make it easier for sommeliers to choose the best wine for a meal from a service standpoint; all of my wines are made to be enjoyed during a meal.” After working for 12 years as a winemaker and sommelier in France and other countries known for their wine cultures, Mr. Hirakawa now believes that the most important thing about winemaking is to give each wine local character. Hirakawa Winery does not disclose the grape varieties they use, because he believes that wines should transcend varietals to adopt a regional taste.
- Sometimes, wines are paired with ingredients originating from the same area. Hirakawa Winery’s wines were created to reflect the characteristics of the town of Yoichi, so they’re best paired with ingredients produced in Yoichi or Hokkaido. Wine pairings that allow you to experience the local character of a region is one more thing to look forward to during your travels.