The very generous Markus Baumgartner is one half of the couple who run the charming Japanese food, drink and gift shop Shinwazen near Zürich Hauptbahnhof. He and his wife Yuko are retired, but active in the Slow Food movement and as ambassadors for Japanese food, drink and traditional crafts. They know the makers of most of the products in their shop personally and focus on stocking a small number of high-quality items including ceramics, lacquerware, knives and Hario glassware.

Markus kindly organised a tasting ahead of my WSET sake course (see review of the WSET Level 3 Award in Sake), and I managed to gather a small group of sake enthusiasts at short notice. We met at the shop on the afternoon of 15 March 2017 to sample an incredible 14 sakes, working our way up from the lowest level of the special designations (tokutei meishō), starting with honjōzō and junmai, and working up through the ginjo level to the daiginjo sakes.

The Rojō Hana Ari Kurobotan and Aoi junmai daiginjo were clear winners, with several bottles bought at the end of the tasting. However, the Hana Fubuki junmai ginjo had the most mixed reactions, with one person not liking it at all but unable to say why. 

My personal favourites were the Rojō Hana Ari Kurobotan junmai daiginjo and the Kukusui organic junmai ginjo.

Markus Baumgartner at Shinwazen