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The Mainichi newspaper site (I swear it’s not the only thing I read) reports on the upcoming International Wine Challenge (IWC) sake division rounds, hosted this year in Japan for the first time. Yamagata rolled out the red carpet for a group of IWC visitors earlier this year and charmed them into holding the judging in the prefecture. To celebrate, the prefecture will also be holding a massive prefecture-wide tasting for the sake entered in the competition after the event finishes.

The department that promotes prefectural businesses and products has high hopes for the after-parties, describing them as a rare chance to find many famous sake in one place, and hoping attendees get their fill of all the different flavours that will be on offer.

There are nine categories in the IWC contest, futsu-shu, honjōzō, ginjōdaiginjō, junmai, junmai ginjō, junmai daiginjō, koshu and sparkling, and the entry form also allows entrants to specify styles (nama, genshu, taruzake, kimoto/yamahai, kijoshu, other) and up to two rice varieties with percentages. There are additional prizes for Great Value Sake and Sake Brewer of the Year.

Up to 1,500 entries are expected in total, with 60 judges hailing from 14 countries including buyers and sommeliers. Entries for the sake division opened on 13 February 2018, and closed on 12 April 2018 by post and 17 April 2018 online. Judging takes place 13-15 May 2018, with the trophy judging on 16 May 2018. Medals, trophies and the sake division champion will be announced on 18 May 2018, and the awards dinner will be held on 10 July 2018 in London. There will also be an on-trade discovery tasting 1-3 October 2018 at The Restaurant Show in London.

The public tastings will be on 19 and 20 May at local community venues around the prefecture. Tickets cost JPY 2,000 in advance or JPY 2,500 on the door, and entitle the holder to taste up to 10 sake. There’s also a premium ticket for tasting Yamaguchi Prefecture junmai daiginjō, sold in advance for JPY 5,000. There will also be a tasting contest and sake-related prize draw. The prefectural promotion department also announced that tastings will be held later in Tokyo and Hyogo Prefecture. Part of the proceeds will go towards reconstruction projects for the Great East Japan Earthquake.