Sake: What international Pros say!

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Wer mich “verfolgt” weiß, dass ich erst kürzlich in Japan unterwegs und auf den Spuren des japanischen Volksgetränks Sake war. Knappe zehn Tage wuselte ich mich durch Tokyo und die Präfekturen Aomori und Iwate im Norden der Hauptinsel Japans. Natürlich war ich nicht alleine unterwegs! Begleitet wurde ich von einer internationalen Gruppe  von Weinjournalisten und Fachleuten, die ebenfalls einen “Deep Dive” in das Thema Sake erleben konnten. Gemeinsam besuchten wir eine ganze Reihe an Brauereien, verkosteten weit über 150 Sake, tauschten uns aus, redeten mit den “Tojis” und hatten jede Menge spannende Sake-Food-Pairings während unserer klassisch japanischen Lunches und Dinners.

Die Teilnehmergruppe setzte sich aus aller Herren Länder zusammen und deckte die Länder UK, Litauen, USA, Indien, Malaysia, die Philippinen und schließlich Deutschland ab, was es umso spannender machte. Teils unterschiedliche Kulturen und lokale Geschmäcker machten den Austausch enorm interessant und zeigten die verschiedenen Herangehensweisen an das Thema Sake auf.

Nachdem ich im letzten Artikel zwei deutsche Sake- und Japan-Fachleute zu Wort kommen ließ, möchte ich in diesem Artikel meine Mitstreiter in Japan nach ihrer Meinung fragen. Wechselt jetzt innerlich ins englische und findet mehr über das so wahnsinnig spannende Thema Sake heraus!

Raimonds Tomsons aus Litauen über Sake

Raimond Tomsons ist nicht nur Restaurantmanager und Sommelier im Vincents Restaurant in Riga. Er wurde 2019 3ter beim “Bester Sommelier der Welt”-Wettbewerb und Bester Sommelier in Europa und Afrika in 2017 von der Association de la Sommellerie Internationale.

1. What are your thoughts on Sake in general and would you say its an alternate for wine? 

I love Sake, especially after my last visit to Japan, when your knowledge about Sake gains and you understand more the traditions and history behind! Still, I think it is a beverage difficult to compare with wine; the flavors are different, although, with some white wines you can find some similarities in flavor! However, Sake is very universal, since there is no tannin, in general, it is very subtle, soft and round and it does not disturb the food, rather complementing!

2. What do you appreciate in Japanese culinary art?

The freshness, purity and simplicity of product! You never feel stuffed and too full after a meal!

3. What is your favorite Sake and would be your go-to food pairing with it?

Of course, in every Sake style and category, you can find your favorites, but, tasting so many Sake, I have understood, that Ginjo Sake is my preference! In general, it has the intensity and structure of Honjozo/Junmai and the finesse, purity and freshness of a Daiginjo! Of course, I love it with different style of seafood, sushi and sashimi; where the umami flavors beautifully play together with the character of Ginjo but I can see it working together also with delicate meat dishes (duck, chicken, pork or even wagyu) in soy, teriyaki kind of glaze/sauce! It works also perfect with dishes including rice, pasta, mushrooms and pickled vegetables, which are problematic products for wine, where Sake with it’s subtle but umami rich character nicely complements and does not conflict with these dishes!

Kim Choong aus Malaysia über Sake

Kim Choong is the Editor of, a leading drinks platform that connects trade and consumers in Malaysia. She travels the world to meet passionate people in the beverage craft and tell their stories though words and events.

1. What are your thoughts on Saké in general and would you say it’s an alternate for wine? 

My first sakés were the commercial futsu-shu and they were quite rough. However, there is something about alcohol beverages made from rice because that’s staple to my Asian root. So saké was intriguing and easily acceptable. Only until recent years in my line of work, I get to try higher grade sakés that totally opens up my mind about how delicate and versatile this beverage can be. As with comparing it as an alternative to wine, I don’t think it works like that. Wine is a totally different beverage and it has very different dimension to its taste profile compared to saké. For a start, wine has tannins that are unique to its core when paired with food. The characters and experience wines give to our palate are things that cannot be replaced by saké. The same would apply the other way round.

2. What do you appreciate in Japanese culinary art?

I think the Japanese are dedicated people in delivering the best they can. Any lack of such attitude seems to be a failure to their profession. This is the attitude I respect and also the reason that makes anything Japanese simply amazing, the same goes to their culinary art. I mean, who would cull a poisonous fish and make sure it is edible?!

3. What is your favorite Saké and would be your go-to food pairing with it?

Having to pick a favourite saké is a tough job. I can find a good saké from any brewery and any type of saké has brilliant producers. I’d say that I’m quite open minded with any drink before I try it. Of course, there is the time of the day, body temperature, surroundings, mood and other factors that affects the palate. I sometimes like the funky flavour and sometimes, I just want a chilled floral and easy to drink saké.In terms of pairing, my go-to is still sashimi. Simply because this is my favourite cuisine. I have also not have enough experience in pairing saké with other food and I would love to try more. 

Ravi K Joshi aus Indien über Sake

Ravi K Joshi, in Neu-Delhi auch als Colonel Joe bekannt, ist ehemaliger Soldat der indischen Armee. Heute ist er Autor für alles was den Gaumen vor dem Austrocknen rettet. Er reist durch die Welt um neue Getränke kennenzulernen und bietet in Indien Beratungsdienste rund um das Thema Getränke an.

1. What are your thoughts on Sake in general and would you say its an alternate for wine? 

First of all, Sake should not be seen as an alternative to wine. It is a distinct genre altogether. If a person tries sufficient number of Sakes to develop reasonable understanding and gets his senses accustomed to it, he would find that the same beverage can be enjoyed in so many ways- be it cold/warm, with/without food or before/after meals. Sake is a very forgiving when it comes to pairing with food, unlike wine that often requires a very sharp focus on the type of food to be paired or whether you can enjoy them on their own or not.

2. What do you appreciate in Japanese culinary art?

Simplicity of preparation, purity of ingredients and their healthier disposition as compared to many other cuisines.

3. What is your favorite Sake and would be your go-to food pairing with it?

Without food, I am quite inclined towards a floral and delicate Sake (generally a Junmai Daiginjo) or a fruitier Junmai Ginjo or Honjozo.
With food, I would prefer a savoury Sake with Umami characteristics, something like a Nama Chozoshu or a Junmai shu made with native yeasts.

Hope Ewing aus Los Angeles über Sake

Hope Ewing ist eine Buchautorin aus den Vereinigten Staaten. Neben Büchern schreibt sie als Freelancerin für diverse Medien über das Thema “Beverage”. Ob Wein, Cocktails, Food oder Behind-the-scenes – Hope schreibt über das, was sie in ihrem Berufsalltag in der Industrie erlebt.

1. What are your thoughts on Sake in general and would you say its an alternate for wine?

I became interested in sake whilst running a bar at a new LA seafood restaurant licensed for beer and wine, but not spirits. Coming from a craft cocktail background, I was excited to have another palette to play with. Since then I’ve been avid about trying to taste as much sake as possible and expand my knowledge on it. I think having a sake list at a non-Japanese restaurant helps distinguish our bar program from the hundreds of other options people have in the neighborhood. It’s been very well received. Not selling as much as wine or beer, but more so than some naysayers  predicted. Angelenos are curious about sake now, it is definitely growing in popularity.
As far as being an alternative to wine, I don’t really feel that this is true any more than beer or whisky are alternatives to wine, or any one wine style is interchangeable with another. I drink sake because I want sake, and the qualities I look for in a sake are quite different than what I want in a wine. It is delicious and complex and a great food compliment—I love having a beverage option that is at once clean and mild but also savory. It is sake’s umami character that really hooked me.

2. What do you appreciate in japanese culinary art?

What really struck me in Japan was how even the “convenience” food—even the airport food!—was tasty and thoughtfully made. It shows a sense of priority and care when it comes to food. I love how the Japanese culinary tradition emphasizes mastery and attention to detail.  

3. What is your favorite Sake and would be your go-to food pairing with it?

SO MANY. It is entirely mood-based, but I’d say my go-tos are a robust Junmai or a clean but hearty Honjozo. Sweet sake with red meat is amazing! One that I am really enjoying right now is the Enter.Sake Sookuu Junmai. It is surprisingly delicate for  its polishing rate, but the complexity is out of this world. Layers of umami, cereal, and fruity notes all harmonizing. I love this with raw oysters or grilled fish. My favorite pairing yet is a muscular Yamahai with bagels and lox (smoked salmon). While we are talking about it—a dry sparkling sake with fried chicken is sublime.

Photo by Kim Choong of

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