My Introduction to Sake

Here she is, the blogger for the Sake Sommelier Association. Doesn’t look very Japanese, does she? Must be a sake expert, though. Well, no, I don’t look Japanese and, no, I am not a sake expert, but these nice folks at SSA will help me to become one. This is a forum for us all to learn together and to share. We hope to make this a vibrant community rather than an exclusive club.

nam zest

My personal sake story started when I was perhaps twelve years old. I wasn’t actually sipping sake at that time but I was drinking in every travel book on Japan that I could find. I was fascinated by the rich culture, beautiful landscapes, stunning textiles, and those pages included references to this strange and popular, in Japan at least, beverage called sake. It was there in every volume borrowed from that local library.

nagoya-sake-brewery-season-web

Decades later I tasted sake and it wasn’t a drink I was eager to revisit. It was rough, over-heated and unappealing in every regard. Many years after that first dubious encounter I had the opportunity to try some much better quality nihonshu (the Japanese term for Japanese liquor or sake) and it was a world apart. I wanted to learn more. I knew it was made from rice – but how? There were lots of different styles of sake – but how could that be? So many questions and so many bottles.

sake jugs and ochoko

The Sake Sommelier Association gave me an opportunity that had my name written all over it. I took their Certified Sake Sommelier qualification and that opened a door on the world of sake, both here and in Japan. There is the Sake Buzz which is a small but very definite wave of enthusiasm across Europe and the USA. Sake of better quality is now being served in restaurants and by sommeliers who have actually studied the subject and have respect for not only the drink but its traditions. They can give much more helpful advice than ‘If you want sushi then go for the cold one. If it’s snowing then go for the hot one.’ They are the first rank of sake promotion and crucial to its success outside Japan. Many of those well-informed sommeliers have been trained by the Sake Sommelier Association. I recently interviewed a sommelier in a Michelin-starred restaurant in London and we discovered that we had the same qualification!

I am very much looking forward to working with Sake Sommelier Association and to writing about sake and all things Japanese. I hope you will join me.

Chrissie Walker
Owner/Editor Mostly Food & Travel Journal