If you’re not selling sake in your restaurant yet, maybe you should be.
At the IWC awards dinner on Tuesday, some of Japan’s best ‘kuramoto’ (sake brewery owners) were present to accept their trophies. Sam Harrop MW gave a brief explanation of sake first, so even for a dedicated wine crowd this should have been an interesting diversion. But I was saddened by the substantial minority of bored-looking people who hardly bothered to clap. If that was you, then wake up – you’re missing out.
Sake is growing really strongly in the UK. Ok, so it’s growing from a tiny base, but so is wine consumption in China and that doesn’t stop half the wine world from thinking it’s the promised land. So why isn’t the UK trade taking more notice of sake? After all, sake has much in common with wine and is drunk (with increasing enthusiasm) by the very same people who buy wine. It’s a sophisticated, food-friendly drink, with lots of different styles, origins, and even varieties of rice.
Even more significantly, sake is moving out of Japanese restaurants. At Yauatcha we serve Chinese food, and we’ve had a sake page on the wine list for about a year. Hakkasan will go the same way soon. Three years ago we had to suggest sake to customers, and they bought just a glass. Two years ago customers would ask for a glass of sake without prompting. Now? They go straight for a bottle. London, at least, has a growing core of customers who know exactly what sake is, and they want to drink it. And these people expect sake in all types of restaurants, not just Japanese.
So if you were in the audience on Tuesday, and thought the sake awards were a waste of time, perhaps you need a re-think.