Sales of sake in the UK have more than doubled in the past two years and are now worth well over £2m per annum.
According to Nobuaki Tanaka of Tazaki Foods, a major UK importer of Japanese food and drink, the reasons for the growth are twofold.
‘One is the increase in popularity of Japanese cuisine here, where sake provides the final touch to a meal, and the second is the growing recognition of sake among wine and restaurant professionals.’
Kosuke Kuji, vice president of the Nanbu Bijin Sake Brewing Company, said there is still have a long way to go before the popularity of sake reaches a similar level to that enjoyed by rice wines in the USA.
‘The Americans drink a lot more sake than Europeans do. And where in the UK most sake sommeliers are Japanese, in the US they’re just as likely to be American.’
He added there was no figure in the UK like John Gauntner [an American sake expert who has written numerous books and articles on the subject] to interpret sake for the European audience.
Kuji agrees that wine lovers have a head start in appreciating the nuances of rice wines, but he warns that the disciplines of tasting wine and sake are different.
‘What you’re looking for in sake, above all, is purity and clean aromas.
‘A long aftertaste is not considered desirable because sake is meant to cleanse the palate. A rice wine with strong flavours and a distinct personality would not allow you to do that.’
Written by Natasha Hughes