May 2011

Sake Efforts - The International Wine Challenge Judges 468 Sakes!

Posted by Beau Timken in 2011, May, Newsletter
The IWC - International Wine Challenge - is the largest wine tasting in the world, and they have honored sake by adding our beloved drink to their tasting program. Each year more and more entrants have joined the tasting process and I am certain that you have seen the IWC stickers or "neckers" on some of the winning sakes that grace our shelves at True Sake.

I have been a judge for the event for two years - was supposed to judge last year but that darn volcano in Iceland sent a volcanic ash cloud over Europe that closed airports. Most of the Japanese judges and I got screwed by the cloud! No tasting for us! (How many natural disasters must cross my path? Geesh!)

Herewith is a quick email that I sent from the event and then I will go into greater detail in the June Newsletter after the medalists are announced on May 17th. (International Wine Challenge »)

The most sakes to date 468. The quality was amazing. The disparity between the western palate and the Japanese palate has also closed quite a bit.....several years back the two tastes were miles apart.... this time very similar....same judges too....interesting. I still don't know the results myself... the grand champion was one of the best sakes that I've ever tasted..... They also did some new categories this year..... Junmai - Junmai Ginjo/Junmai Daiginjo - Honjozo - Ginjo/Daiginjo - Koshu. We also tasted in a new order - as I typed above.....last two years started with Honjozo... Finally - as I and many other judges from Japan could not make it to London (volcano ash) last year they filled our slots with wine sommeliers, who had a real problem judging the sakes without thinking in terms of food pairings. Many selected sakes for their food pairing abilities.... There was a long discussion about not thinking in this regard this year. I had a very good time speaking about the trends that we have both been a part of for the past ten years. What stands out most for me was the overall quality of the sakes. Truly fantastic.

Not only was I the sake panel chairman, but I was also asked to speak at the Master Class seminar immediately following our tasting. I initially intended to speak about the marketing, branding, and movement of sake in the West for the past decade, but I felt compelled to speak about the disaster as well. One of the audience members was a woman by the name of Keiko Yamamoto, who is a sushi guru and has her own website called Sushi Queen and she shot her own phone video of my talk. It's a little "handheld," but you can get the gist of the discussion.

Youtube - SushiLesson's Channel »

Again, I will speak more about the IWC in the June Newsletter. Likewise please see this month's "True Sake In The News" where you will find a Japan Times article about the tasting and panel discussion thereafter.

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