The Sankei News reports on an assessment in Sendai of sake under production in Tohoku, including some critical foreign tongues.
Breweries in the six prefectures that make up the Tohoku region (Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata, Fukushima) submitted their sake for an evaluation of quality and brewers' technique at a regional assessment held on 5 October 2018.
22 assessors carried out a thorough final evaluation of aroma and flavour. This is the first time that the Sendai Regional Taxation Bureau has released images of the judging in progress, and also the first time that non-Japanese assessors were admitted, to aid dissemination of information overseas and with export promotion in mind.
The results will be announced at an awards ceremony on 9 November 2018, celebrating the quality of Tohoku sake in the eyes of the world and not only Japan. The Sendai Regional Taxation Bureau also intends to make use of the assessment to further promote the region's sake.
388 sake from 146 breweries were entered in the ginjō and junmai categories. The assessors were drawn from the Sendai Regional Taxation Bureau's own assessors, the National Research Institute of Brewing (NRIB) in Hiroshima, members of organisations providing technical guidance and technicians from the breweries themselves.
The judges this time included British Philip Harper, Japan's first foreign sake tōji, and American sake promoter and educator John Gauntner. Harper is already an experienced assessor for the Osaka Tax Office, while Gauntner is a judge for the sake division of the International Wine Challenge.
Tohoku sake regularly takes home large numbers of medals from the national new sake assessments held annually in spring, sweeping up 50% of gold medals in 2017 and 41% in 2018 to gain an incontestable lead over other regions. The Sendai Tax Office also reports that consumption of sake by foreign tourists and exports are seeing steady increases.
The Sendai Regional Taxation Bureau plans to publish commentary in English from the two foreign judges alongside the general and special assessor awards. They will be posted on the bureau's site and used for publicity overseas, particularly as the bureau believes that no-one will need an introduction to either Harper or Gauntner and therefore their voices will carry news of the quality of Tohoku sake far and wide.