Kanpai! To all winners in Japan as the IWC announces its Champion Sakes
The International Wine Challenge Sake (IWC Sake) announced the winner of its Champion Sake today at the International Wine Challenge Awards Dinner. The announcement comes after 4 days blind tasting at Yamagata Prefecture in Japan.
At the IWC this year there were three big winners.
The IWC Champion Sake 2018, sponsored by Japan Airlines, went to Okunomatsu Adatara Ginjo. Ginjo sake is much more delicate and complex compared to others and its name is synonymous with premium sake. This sake stood out for judges in demonstrating pretty, floral notes of honeysuckle, jasmine, peach, ripe pear, and melon. Experts described it as clean and balanced with a fresh and gentle dry palate and a layered, creamy smooth structure
The winner of the IWC Great Value Sake Award 2018, sponsored by the Sake Samurai Association, has been revealed as Gekkeikan Tokusen. Honjozo is a sake that has a small amount of brewer’s alcohol added to the fermenting sake mash. To qualify as honjozo, the weight of the added alcohol must be no more than 10% of the weight of the sake rice used in brewing. This award-winning full-bodied Honjozo impressed judges with a complex suite of aromas including cocoa, spices and creme brulée followed by an umami filled balance and a smooth finish. To qualify for a Great Value Award entries must receive a Gold or Silver medal at the competition, have a minimum production volume of 10,000 bottles and be available nationwide for less than ¥1,000 (approximately £7) for 720ml.
Finally, the coveted IWC Sake Brewer of the Year 2018 award, sponsored by The Prefecture of Yamagata, was awarded to Tohoku Meijo. Tohoku Meijo Co also won the Honojzo Trophy and the Yamagata Junmai Trophy as well as six Gold medals, one Silver and one Bronze. Tohoku Meijo started brewing sake in 1893 in the Sakata port town in Yamagata, a region renowned for its rich harvests of quality rice, clean air and high-quality groundwater from the surrounding dunes. The long cold winter in this area is another important factor contributing to its sake. The Tohoku Meijo brewery has adopted the ‘Kimoto’ method, unique because of its resulting complexity, depth and smooth aftertaste. Tohoku Meijo have produced a variety of sake including Honjozo, Ginjo, Daiginjo, Junmai, Junmai Ginjo and Junmai Daiginjo.
The IWC sake competition was introduced in 2007 and has grown exponentially over the last 12 years with sakes entered globally – from regions as diverse as USA to Switzerland.
Each year an array of some of the most respected sake experts from around the world join the IWC to judge the sake competition. Now the IWC is widely regarded as one of the largest, most credible and prestigious sake competitions in the world.
Like wine, there is great variety and complexity in sake, running the gamut from light and elegant to rich, multifaceted styles – with the variety of rice and the quality of the water acting as the primary points of differentiation. Sake’s method of production aligns it more closely with beer rather than wine, despite it commonly being referred to in the UK as a rice wine.
Kenichi Ohashi, MW, of the IWC Sake, commented:
“Year on year we are seeing an increased quality as well as quantity of sake entering into the IWC. This is fantastic not only for the industry but for consumers, worldwide, all of whom are being educated and initiated to this century old cultural gem.”