It’s finally here! Earlier last year, WSET launched the Level 3 Award in Sake and while level 1 was available in test markets in London and the US since this summer, it’s just made it to Canada. I’m teaching it in Vancouver and Toronto in the next couple of months. If you’re in or close to either city, it’s a terrific introduction or review into the beautiful world of sake! Because it’s me, I’ll be covering food pairings with REAL food!
Vancouver – The Art Institute of Vancouver is offering a WSET sake level 1 course for the first time in Canada, taught by Mariko Tajiri. It’s a 1-day course on Saturday, January 14th and it’s perfect for anyone who works with sake in restaurants or retail, or those who just want to learn more! Brewing basics, sake service, classifications and food pairings will all be covered.
Date: Saturday, January 14th, 2017
Time: 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
Location: The Art Institute of Vancouver
(2665 Renfrew Street
Vancouver, British Columbia)
Contact: Angela at 604.989.8009 or firstname.lastname@example.org to book your spot now.
The Art Institute also offers gift certificates for Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers…the gift of learning keeps on giving!
Toronto – This session will be taught at IWEG (Independent Wine Education Guild) and the enriched food and sake pairing component will be delivered by instructor Mariko Tajiri, providing the opportunity to experience key pairing principles through interactive tasting. Students will have access to the Study Guide upon receipt of tuition and are required to read through the material before attending class in order to be familiar with content and participate in activities. There will be a short break midday for refreshment. Glassware provided.
Date: Saturday, February 25th, 2017
Time: 9:30 am – 5:30 pm
(211 Yonge St. Suite 501 Toronto, Ontario)
Price: $360 **Special industry pricing available. Please enquire!
The holidays is a time of year when family and friends gather around – what else – food. I grew up with roast beef (my favourite) alongside big bowls of white rice and soy sauce at the dinner table on Christmas Eve. Awkward conversations, ever-so drunken uncles and aunts, everyone’s got memories of this time of year: the good, the bad and the ugly. Whatever your story may be, eating and drinking is probably a part of it.
I’ve seen holiday dinners with pierogies, cabbage rolls, sushi and my favourite, KFC. In Japan, turkeys aren’t easy to find. Turkey legs or breasts maybe, but certainly not the whole bird. In the 1970s, Kentucky Fried Chicken found a way to market the Japanese obsession with all things American during the holidays by promoting buckets of KFC fried chicken as a Christmas treat, along with a snowy-white Christmas cake.
You can pre-order these dinners, which now include a bottle of sparkling wine. Maybe it sounds strange but maybe they were onto something; maybe they were a little ahead of the times, as hipster restaurants have sprung up in some of our favourite hipster neighbourhoods around the world serving up fried chicken and grower-Champagne. Whether you’re a Juke Chicken (YVR), Church’s Chicken or KFC fan, here are a few beverages to accompany your crispy, salty drumstick or two:
Kuheiji Eau du Desir 2015 – not quite sparkling but the way this eccentric brewery pasteurizes the sake leaves a little tingle on the palate. Delicious with a salty, not so spicy fried chicken recipe.
Tengumai Yamahai Junmai – brewed using the powers of natural fermentation and without adding lactic acid, this sake is salty, mouth-watering and food-perfect. Drink slightly chilled for lots of acidity and umami. An easy pick for all things fried.
Hubert Paulet Premier Cru 2005 Rose – a grower Champagne producer who sells half their grapes to Billecart-Salmon, this elegant but nervy rose is made up of mostly Chardonnay, with a splash of Pinot Meunier. Fine bubbles with strawberries and soft herbs on the palate goes great with fried chicken knuckles at dim sum.
I think it’s only appropriate that I write about this sake this week, as Kuheji san was visiting us in Canada recently. It’s a brewery that goes back to 1647 but as the 15th generation owner and head of the company, Kuheiji Kuno is shaking things up…
Sake, for hundreds of years, has been said, should taste the similar (if not the same), year after year. There is a ‘house style’, kind of like non-vintage Champagne. So the brewer’s skill was in being able to recreate that profile no matter what conditions you were faced. Kuheiji, on the other hand, questioned this notion and said that he’s going to make sakes that taste different, depending on the vintage. The vintage indicated is for the rice harvest year and there is no blending. Since 2008, all of the Kuheiji sakes are vintaged, making it the only brewery that has vintage declarations for all products.
Respecting the past, heritage and legacy of sake making, yet not afraid to question what others have not, Kuheiji is a frontier in an often conservative industry.
Kuheiji Eau du Desir 2011
Rice: 100% Yamadanishiki
Sake Meter Value (SMV): N/A not indicated, as the brewery does not believe in giving this information to the public. They believe it is misleading and unnecessary.
Tasting notes: Floral, with notes of Summer berries, mangoes. Medium richness on palate, medium acidity. Concentrated fruit with medium finish.
Has aged well, the elements (alcohol, fruit, acidity, etc.) have mellowed, have integrated. Aging sake is for another post!
Now do this with sake. The clear stuff.
I often get asked “how do you taste sake?” Quite simply, you should taste sake like you taste wine, which is why I posted the video above. The colour can tell you things (age, filtering methods, style) and if there is any sediment, it might be a tad old or had some solids come back out. Getting your nose in there will tell you if it’s an aromatic style or earthier style and then tasting it while getting air in your mouth will open it up for you. As for whether or not the tiny traditional cups or wine glasses are better for sake, I think that’s a topic for another day…
However, compared to wine, sake is very insensitive to air. It’s actually the temperature that affects it the most. So whether you’re serving it or storing it, make sure that it’s done so at the right temperature. Too cold and it’ll be in shock, too warm and the acidity will be gone. Store it too warm and the aging will speed up, too cold and it’ll never mature. Unfortunately, there’s no strict rule to serving or storing sake – you have to know the sake and it’s style to know its potential.
If there’s one rule to serving sake in my opinion, it’s to not serve it too cold. Everyone’s had a glass of white wine chilled so much that glass was frosty and you couldn’t smell anything.
Maybe that was a good thing (especially if the wine isn’t that great!) or maybe it was hot and humid and all you wanted was a refreshing, simple glass of wine. But if you want to taste sake or wine, I mean, really taste it, it shouldn’t be too cold.
Go and slurp that sake! You have my permission. But don’t blame me for the stares in the restaurant.