Friday, January 17, 2014

Sake News

Kanpai! Here is another short list of some of the interesting Sake articles that have been published lately. It is great to see more and more coverage for Sake, though I recommend that anyone seeking to publish a Sake article check it at least a few times for accuracy. A few basic errors continue showing up in introductory Sake articles, and those errors would be easy to eliminate if you had a knowledgeable Sake person check your facts. Let us also hope that we see more than just introductory Sake articles in the future. Sake has many depths and all those varied facets make great material for articles.

1) Over at Nippon, there is a fascinating article, Dassai: How A Rural Sake Brewery Took On The World, which the entire Sake industry should read and heed the lessons within. The Sake industry has significant problems, with a declining number of breweries and less consumption within Japan. How does a brewery deal with those issues? This article provides the story of how Dassai has successfully dealt with those matters and plans to continue their forward progress in the future.

For one, Dassai realized that many customers wanted more premium Sake, and not ordinary futsu-shu, so they decided to concentrate only on premium Sake. The current statistics in Japan for several years has shown a small increase in consumption of premium Sake, accompanied by a decline in the consumption of futsu-shu. Other breweries need to consider these statistics and work toward producing more premium Sake. Dassai also chose not to sell their Sake just locally, but to reach out to other prefectures, like Tokyo. Finally, it was important to Dassai to develop a market outside Japan, with the U.S. now being their #1 export market. Other breweries need to consider increasing their exports too, and go where the Sake market continues to increase. I strongly urge everyone interested in Sake to check out this article.

2) The Asahi Shimbun notes an upcoming and cool invention, a Sake cup that glows. A masu is a traditional Sake cup that is basically a square box of wood, usually Japanese cypress. When the masu is held at an angle, such as when you are drinking from it, the bottom of the cup will emit "a dim light in red, blue and white for about 10 seconds in each color." It sounds like an interesting novelty, and should be available in Japan in April, but it will be priced from $48-$97. At such a price, I don't think it will catch on with the general public. However, the article notes the company plans to market it to "bars, Japanese-style pubs and wedding halls." That might be a market that would be willing to pay those prices.

3) In Bloomberg Luxury, you should read an article by Aya Takada that notes how increasing Sake exports are leading to increased rice plantings to meet the growing demand. In the first 10 months of 2013, Sake exports reached a new high and the year should end as the fourth straight year of increased exports. Great news! It is also mentioned that "Prime Minister Shinzo Abe targets a fivefold increase in exports of sake, rice crackers and other products made from the grain to 60 billion yen by 2020." That gives growers even more incentive to plant more rice.

The article also mentioned that the Prime Minister shared some Dassai Sake with French President Francois Hollande when he visited Tokyo in June. In addition, the Prime Minister provided some Dassai to Vladimir Putin for his 61st birthday. Will the Prime Minister share some Dassai with President Obama next?

4) Check out The Japan Times for a compelling article about the only Sake brewery in Europe, Nøgne Ø. Originally known for its beers, Nøgne Ø, has expanded into Sake production, and most recently also shochu. The brewery imports rice from Japan, and currently makes 3 different Sakes, with more in the works. All three Sakes are made in the yamahai style, which tends to provide more earthy/gamey flavors and lots of umami. I haven't had the opportunity to taste their Sake yet, but have learned that it is available in Canada, though not the U.S., which means a road trip is warranted so I can find their Sake. I love kimoto/yamahai Sake, so am especially interested in tasting their brews.


Ben Bell said...

Love these sake news roundups! Is it just me or is a small groundswell happening with sake new and feature articles? It seems like as recently as early last year there was only a trickle. Now I'm seeing good pieces every few days.

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks Ben, and yes there does seem that Sake articles are coming out more frequently now, which is great. Hopefully it will continue to increase.