Sake Producers Make Their Way West

Japanese sake brewers are seeking a new market in the Western world, according to The New York Times. Kensuke Shichida, the owner of 140-year-old Tenzan brewery, is leading the charge “to bring his family-brewed sake to European restaurants and pair it with Western cuisine,” which means charting new territory.”

The sake-food pairing might be a new culinary breakthrough. While fresh oysters are usually paired with Champagne or Chablis in the Western world, Shichida claims that sake works better. Recently, Hixter’s head chef Ronnie Murray paired his lamb and mushroom dish with 75 Junmai produced by Shichida. “Sake is less about cutting though the food than sitting alongside it,” said Gareth Groves, the head of marketing at Bibendum Wine. 

The push to expend to new markets came out of necessity. Sake sales have dropped significantly over past decades due to the growing popularity of wine, beer and whiskey—in combination with a declining birthrate—in Japan.

With a staggering variety of styles, sake is inching its way toward becoming the next big thing in drinks. Even producers outside of Japan are popping up. Norway’s Nogne O brewery produced Europe’s first sake, while Arran of Scotland will start producing sake later this year on a commercial scale.

The ultimate aim for Japanese sake brewers exporting to the West is to bring sake’s popularity back to Japan. “If we’re able to tell the Japanese, ‘Look how much foreigners are enjoying sake,’ that would give them an opportunity to rediscover sake and revive demand,” said Shichida. [The New York Times] [Photo: Flickr/halfrain]