The Chunichi newspaper site reports on a collaboration between a tōji and a sommelier to create four new lines of sake that can match non-Japanese food - which to their minds means acidity.
Based in Kanazawa, Fukumitsuya is a venerable brewery found in 1625 but it faces the same modern problems as other sake producers.
Their tōji Kazuhiko Itaya teamed up with Ken'ichi Tsuji of the Japan Sommelier Association in February for joint development of new products, aiming to create different flavours that could go with Chinese and Western foods. The new line is called "Itaya" and features four labels: "Zed", "Kaoru Sōkai" (fragrant and refreshing), "Rice Wine for White Foods" and "Rice Wine for Red Foods".
The distinguishing characteristic of all four labels, which the article describes as a "taboo" for sake, is acidity. They are all made with an original "FA yeast" which produces malic acidity and other components that give a fine, light sake just right for Western foods. The brewery recommends drinking the sake from a wine glass. It also uses an original sterile filling system that allows nama-zume sake to be transported without cooling. The stylish bottles and leaflets were designed by a team centred around female employees, and made to resemble wine bottles.
The sake industry has been squeezed in recent years by chūhai and beer, leading to questions about how to develop new ways of drinking it. One of those ways is producing sake that is a good match for food and so can be easily taken up by the restaurant industry, in other words wine-style food pairing. Fukumitsuya held a pairing at a Chinese restaurant in Kanazawa in March, with positive reports that the sake went very well with Chinese food and was easy to drink. They plan to hold similar pairing events at Spanish and French restaurants. All four labels are being brought onto the menus of Western and Chinese restaurants.
The new labels are aimed at those who are still unfamiliar with sake, such as wine lovers, young people and foreigners. The company also plans to be active on social media, and hopes to introduce a different kind of sake to people overseas.