Sake Scene – International Wine Challenge Does Yamagata
No that is not a typo! It’s a record. This year breweries have submitted 1,636 sakes to be judged at the International Wine Challenge, which is the largest sake competition featuring sake that are commercially available to the sake market. These are sakes made for you and not for national judges in the Japanese National Competition that features super duper sakes that are produced in very limited quantities to impress judges and not consumers. In fact, consumers rarely get to taste these brews.
This year the IWC will be held in Yamagata Prefecture to celebrate the prefecture that has the most medals in IWC history. Yes, Yamagata rocks! The tasting looks very promising indeed. As Co-Chairman, I have a bird’s eye view of each category and what is trending. Some years, different categories pop! It could be the Ginjo category one year and the Junmai category the next. Personally, I feel good when the “value” categories do well. Sake is still sort of expensive, so when the Futsushu category is killing it, then that makes me happy.
Since the competition is in Japan, and the IWC is not made of money, they need to cut back on many of the western judges who travel to Japan. That said, they look to keep the perfect balance between western and Japanese intact. It’s a bit of a numbers crunch. This kills me as I know several of the judges read this newsletter and they cannot attend the event in Yamagata. That part stinks. Nevertheless, it’s also great news that some smaller prefectures like Yamagata, that don’t have huge backing and budgets, like the massive showing in Hyogo in 2016, do have the wherewithal to host this amazing event.
I look forward to next month to report what we find this May. But in the meantime, take a look at our Top Ten List and you too can taste medal-winning sakes.