This year, the Sake is on the Japan External Trade Organization’s (JETRO) Chicago Office. The smooth rice wine now has additional offerings such as whiskey sake and a bubbly champagne sake. In fact, sales are going gangbusters in the United States. Sales figures provided by Takayuki Watanabe, JETRO executive director, show that Japanese exports of sake have doubled since 2013. “The U.S. now is number one in exports of sake, ahead of several Asian countries.”
His JETRO group had a series of tastings in February called Experience Sake, a seminar and tasting to introduce sake varieties and the rice wine drink. These events featured 20 to 30 sakes from breweries in Japan. Representatives from some of those Japanese breweries were present at the tastings. According to Ichiro Sone, chief executive officer of JETRO Chicago Office, those evening seminars and tastings for consumers are the first of its kind expressly for general consumers, allowing them to compare various brands of sake.
At the events, JETRO representatives spoke about the many types of sake, appropriate serving vessels, portion sizes, and serving temperature. These topics and others, such as pairing sake with cheese and other non-Japanese foods were addressed at two 40-minute seminars.
Also on the docket for the sake tasting events were Monica Samuels, National Sake Sales Manager of Vine Connections, and Yukio Hamada, Senior Managing Director of Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association. Experts from Great American Cheese Connection served a variety of cheeses. They hoped that:.
“Those who are new to sake will discover the flavor of sake and enjoy pairing it with cheese and other non-traditional Japanese food. All you have to bring is an open mind, a government-issued ID, unsullied taste buds, and a sense of adventure.”
The February seminars were co-hosted by the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago, Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association, and Japan American Society of Chicago. There is another event coming up during the summer months and they are all free. All attendees must be 21 or older. All that is required is registration and a photo ID for tasting. Industry professionals must register at https://experiencesakeforindustry.eventbrite.com. All others must register at https://sakefromjapanconsumer.eventbrite.com.