Sommelier Talk: Episode 18 – 25 Years SINCE “Ginjo Gannen”

A while ago at a second-hand bookstore, I purchased a book published by Yomiuri Shinbum some 25 years ago.  Reading this book, “100 Popular Selections of Japanese Sake Brewery and Toji Masters” I encountered a phrase “Ginjo Gannen”.  What exactly is “Ginjo Gannen?” I wondered. “Gannen” literally means “the first, birth year”.  In this case, […]


Lately, subtle but noticeable changes are occurring amongst wine drinkers.  Until recently, the general preferences have been towards “fruit forward” wines or those with strong and fruity aromas, but today, they’re leaning towards more delicate wines with balanced qualities.  Seemingly, fruit forward wines these days are becoming passé, viewed as overly vulgar due to the […]

Discovering Shochu – Episode 15 – Emphasizing Product Attributes

Honkaku Shochu offers unique and delicious flavors found nowhere else in the world of distilled liquors, and is garnering a strong following in the international market.  Nowhere else is Koji used during the brewing process, added to that, the meticulous distilling and aging procedures at the high standards Japan in known for. As Japan’s National […]

Discovering Shochu – Episode 14 – Purported Health Benefits Are Quite the Allure

Throughout Japan, health benefits associated with drinking Honkaku Shochu have been highlighted in the headlines.  The sudden climb to prominence may seem recent, however, its reputation as a healthy drink is well founded from long back in Japanese history.  According to “Honcho-Shoku Kagami”, a food encyclopedia written 317 years ago in 1695, Honkaku Shochu had medicinal […]

Sommelier Talk – Episode 16 – Reviewing Sake Like a Pro Pt. II

In this episode, I’d like to focus on how to analyze and evaluate Sake characteristics by “Sight”, “Smell” and “Taste”.  By consciously practicing the following three areas of evaluation, anyone can develop sound Sake tasting skill.   1.) By Sight: Examine the transparency, color and viscosity of Sake.  It’s easy to see (a) the cloudiness […]

Sommelier Talk: Episode 15 – Reviewing Sake Like a Pro Pt. I

I’m sure that many Japanese restaurant owners, chefs, and mangers have participated in Sake tastings to consider them for sake menu listing.  I’d like to offer some key points when conducting such samplings, so as to help improve tasting skills like a pro, and in turn, to strengthen the Sake menu.   There are three […]

Discovering Shochu: Episode 11 – Honkaku Shochu

Among all distilled liquors of the world, only Honkaku Shochu uses Koji to break down starch into glucose to ferment the Moromi mash.  With hand-crafted artisan Jizake as the national brewed liquor of Japan, Honkaku Shochu is the nation’s distilled version.   Differentiating from other Shochu’s, Honkaku Shochu undergoes single distillation to retain the unique flavor […]

Sommelier Talk: Episode 14 – Improving Sake Menu Selection

In the last few of years, I’ve visited many major cities across the US to promote sake, and during the course of these visits, I’ve learned many things simply from studying the sake menus at restaurants.  While these points may be nothing new, and plain common sense, I share them in hopes of raising enjoyment […]