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The PR Times reports on a new range of sake aimed at restaurants with three Michelin stars.

Louis Robuchon Abe, son of late French chef Joël Robuchon, is the chairman and managing director of Japan Exquise. The company launched a line of six sake from five breweries in Paris on 5 October 2018, with the intention of seeing them end up on the finest restaurant tables.

The article recaps some familiar facts: Japanese culture and food are increasingly popular overseas, with sake experiencing increased exports as a result. But so long as it’s confined to Japanese restaurants it will mainly be consumed by Japanese living abroad or Japanese travellers. [What?? Does the writer really think that the explosive growth in Japanese restaurants is being driven by Japanese expats and tourists?]

Sake needs to integrate into the local food culture to shake off these restraints. But how? The article suggests the way is to copy wine and emphasise the ability of certain sake to pair with specific foods, repositioning it as something to drink with meals.

Japan Exquise has decided to tackle this issue of integration with local food at the top of what it sees as the restaurant pyramid – three-star Michelin restaurants. [Again, I’m going to have to take that with a big pinch of salt. I’ve never been to a three-star Michelin restaurant, but do they serve normal local cooking?] And to do this, it developed a line of sake designed to pair with French cuisine.

Louis Robuchon Abe had a hand in the planting and harvesting of the rice and selection of yeast, as well as procurement and final assessment of the rice by the sake breweries. Bottles and labels were chosen with French restaurants in mind, all to redefine sake in the minds of their patrons.

The breweries and sake on offer are:

  • Cuvée Louis Robuchon (junmai) by Kunimare Shuzō, limited edition of 300 bottles, 720 ml, retail price EUR 100
  • Yamabuki 1988 (jukusei koshu) by Kinmon Akita Shuzō, limited edition of 100 bottles, 500 ml, retail price EUR 500
  • Miwatari L’Expression du Takane-Nishiki (junmai ginjō) by Toshimaya, limited edition of 800 bottles, 740 ml, retail price EUR 150
  • Special Cuvée Wakatake (junmai) by Wakatakeya Shuzōjo, limited edition of 300 bottles, 720 ml, retail price EUR 100
  • Kiyama Sélection Parcellaire (junmai daiginjō) by Kiyama Shōten, limited edition of 500 bottles, 750 ml, retail price EUR 150
  • Kiyama Grand Cru (junmai daiginjō namazake fukuroduri) by Kiyama Shōten, limited edition of 80 bottles, 750 ml, retail price EUR 300

Several restaurants in Paris have already agreed to carry the sake, such as those managed by Joel Robuchon and Alain Ducasse and the Pavillon Ledoyen. A dinner celebrating the announcement of the new range was held at Pavillon Ledoyen on 5 October 2018, followed by a “makers’ lunch” for French chefs, sommeliers and journalists on 7 October at Joel Robuchon on the Champs Elysées. Another celebratory dinner will be held on 20 October at the Robuchon-managed Japanese restaurant Yoshi in Monaco.

Distribution will then be extended in November to three-star Michelin restaurants in Asia, including Japan, Taiwan and China, with a celebratory dinner planned at the Joel Robuchon Chateau Restaurant in Ebisu, Tokyo in early November. Japan Exquise plans to carry on partnering with regional breweries to expand its line.

I hadn’t come across Kinmon Akita before, but as a koshu fan, oh my. Must try to get up there sometime.