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NicoNico News reports on the top 10 sake in the UK… based on an article in UK newspaper The Independent from May 2017, but still interesting. 

The NicoNico article title includes “Dewazakura is No. 2… but who is No. 1?”, which implies some surprise at the taker of the top spot.

The article comments that exports of what is called “sake“, “Japanese sake” or “Japanese wine” in the west have risen year on year for the past five years. Exports in 2016 hit JPY 43 billion, an increase of 110.2% on 2015. The USA was the top export destination, followed by Hong Kong and Korea. Other non-Asian destinations included Canada, Australia and the UK.

The USA even has its own sake production, with Japanese brewery Momokawa teaming up with Portland, Oregon’s Saké ONE who use American-grown rice to produce sake more suited to the American palate. 

The increased popularity of sake has also led to the emergence of the “sake sommelier”, modelled after wine sommeliers and trained in food pairing, brewing methods, production areas, etc. Training courses are also available outside Japan, from introductory level to “Master of Sake”, producing a new generation of experts.

And now, on to the “top 10 sake in the UK” (caveats coming right up):

  1. Tamagawa Time Machine 1712 (£21.95 for 360 ml, The Whisky Exchange)
  2. Dewazakura Oka Ginjo (£12.95 for 300 ml, The Whisky Exchange)
  3. Niizawa Brewery Hakurakusei Tokubetsu Junmai (£30.99 for 720 ml, Amazon)
  4. Kaze no Mori Akitsuho Junmai (£49.98 for 720 ml, Japan Centre)
  5. Sohomare Junmai Ginjo (£41.45 for 720 ml, The Whisky Exchange)
  6. Niizawa Sake Brewing Co, Kishinamien Umeshu Plum Sake (£23.99 for 720 ml, Amazon)
  7. Gekkeikan Nouvelle Junmai Ginjo (£21 for 720 ml, Japan Centre)
  8. Kamoizumi Junmai Daiginjo (£28.65 for 500 ml, The Whisky Exchange)
  9. Tenzan Shichida Junmai 75 Sake (£19.99 for 720 ml, The Ministry of Drinks)
  10. Sho Chiku Bai Shirakabegura Mio Sparkling Sake (£14.58 for 300 ml, Japan Centre)

The article concludes that the sweet, full-flavoured Tamagawa Time Machine from the Kinoshita brewery might be being positioned as a Japanese dessert wine. It also notes that a 360 ml bottle costs JPY 1,080 in Japan, but the equivalent of JPY 3,000 in the UK, putting it in a different price bracket.

The expert consulted for the Independent article was none other than my tutor on the WSET Level 3 course, Natsuki Kikuya. She gives an introduction to sake at the start, suggesting sparkling sake as an accessible starting point. (Not sure I agree, but anyway.) 

So, the caveats. It’s not clear how this “top 10” was put together, other than being easily found through UK retailers. Personal preference of the writer, Richard Hood? Four are from The Whisky Exchange, somewhere I hadn’t heard of before, three from Japan Centre, two from Amazon and one from The Ministry of Drinks, another new one to me. It’s pretty unusual to have such a non-standard style at number one, but if you want to show off what sake can do or recommend something impressively crazy then it might make a bit more sense.