Super Sake Boy and I started drinking sake together almost precisely two years ago. We had very limited experience before coming together and our journey from sake novices to sake enthusiasts has been a fun and educational one. Our two trips to Japan since becoming sake literate have definitely been enhanced by our burgeoning love for the traditional drink of the Japanese… brewed from rice, steeped in culture and history and absolutely delicious.
The fact that this has been a shared interest has allowed us to indulge in masterclasses, brewery visits, specialty shop shopping sprees and, of course, collection of various equipment and required paraphernalia, including sake heating receptacles and sake drinking receptacles. We have even done a pottery session in Kyoto to make our own receptacles.
This past fortnight has seen us take our interest to the next level. We enrolled to do a WSET Level 3 Award in Sake. The WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) is London based and awards internationally recognised certification for industry professionals, such as sommeliers and other people required to be knowledgable about sake. The website states “it is designed to give a thorough understanding of the factors that account for the style, quality and price of sake as well as the commercial importance in the Japanese and export markets”.
We enrolled through Sakeshop at Chef’s Armoury in Richmond. Leigh Hudson is one of only two teachers that are qualified to teach the course in Australia and we are regular customers. Leigh’s knowledge of and passion for sake is contagious, the classes were a lot of fun and we learned so much in a few days that by the end my brain felt bruised. From understanding the rice growing year in Japan to the double fermentation process of starch to sugar and sugar to alcohol conversion using only rice, water, yeast and koji mould, we are now far more knowledgable about our favourite drink than we were last month.
At the end of the course we sat a three hour exam, which examined our knowledge of the theory of producing sake, from growing the rice, to all of the steps in brewing, to different styles of sake, choices of the brewer and the global market. In addition, a double blind tasting of two sake that we had to access based on the WSET SAT (Systematic Approach to Tasting). Ascertaining the acidity, umami, sweetness, clarity and colour and the aromas and flavour characteristics, amongst other things, this part of the exam was quite nerve wracking.
Our exams have now been sent to London to be marked. The process takes approximately 8 weeks. If we have been successful (and not everyone is. The pass rate is around 65%) we will receive a WSET lapel pin and a certificate. I am totally unsure of what we intend to do with our new found knowledge, apart from drink sake with maybe a little more discern? We have met a lovely group of sake enthusiasts, who we intend to remain in contact with. We had a lot of fun learning and tasting and honing our skills. We will be able to speak to the public at Sake Matsuri in Melbourne, where we will be pouring sake with more confidence and infinitely more understanding. Who knows where this will lead us in the future….. well back to Japan, again and again is a reasonably safe guess 😀
If you are interested in the course in Melbourne or Sydney, or just in buying some really great sake, you can find Sakeshop at Chef’s Armoury at 422 Church Street, Richmond 3121 and here at their website.