Let’s kick off with a round of word association. Chicken: Egg. Apples: Oranges. Vending machines: Japan. Natto: No thanks. Takoyaki: Champagne.
Takoyaki and Champagne? Say what? Not many people would pair Osaka’s finest street food (or second finest, depending on where you stand on the takoyaki versus okonomiyaki debate) with champers. But that’s exactly what one of Kansai’s oldest winemakers says we should be doing. The Katashimo Winery has brought out a bottle of bubbly produced especially for takoyaki, and like the little octopus treats, it’s surprisingly delicious and reasonable to boot.
It’s called Tako-cham (as in: octopus Champagne), though technically it’s a sparkling white wine as it’s never been near France’s Champagne region. They’re gambling that the French pedants won’t notice their cheeky skirting of the appellation laws.
Katashimo has been producing wines for more than a hundred years from its vineyards just south of Osaka city, and a few years ago began toying with the idea of a sparkling wine to pair with takoyaki. It seems one of the major stumbling blocks was finding the right design for the label, which to my eye resembles a bottle of sake more than your typical flashy French bubbles.
However, it’s the content that matters most and from first sip to last drip tako-cham is a worthy accompaniment to a helping of takoyaki. This is not a dry wine and it’s all the better for it, too. It’s lightly sparkling with a peachy fruitiness. It’s more complex than you might imagine, but nothing that will threaten a true Champagne. Not that you’ll have long to dwell on the subtleties because as soon as you wolf down your first octopus ball, takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise and bonito flakes combine to overwhelm the senses and you’re left with just a mouthful of bubbles.
I admire what the winemakers at Katashimo have done; having the imagination and the skill to pair takoyaki, a lowbrow street food, with a sparkling wine that’s both delicious and delicate. If you want a proper Champagne cork to pop, you’ll have to shell out for a magnum; the regular bottle is sealed with a boring old bottle cap.
If takoyaki is not to your liking, Tako-cham will go well with just about anything, from sushi to cheese, fruit or a bucket of karaage.
Tako-cham bottle (750ml): ¥2,310;