WSET Sake Course Sets its Sights on Elevating Sake Knowledge Abroad – by Michael Tremblay
In recent years, Torontonians have become knowledgable about sake. They not only appreciate sake as a beverage, but have learned of its versatility and suitability for pairing with food, and for creating cocktails. Many consumers are even yearning to learn more about sake’s provenance and history of origin. With the growing demand for sake in Ontario (as seen from the sold out Kampai – Festival of Sake events held by the Sake Institute of Ontario), comes a growing need for sake education. The Independent Wine Education Guild (IWEG) Drinks Academy has heard the call, and starting in April will tap into sake expertise that exists right here in Toronto to present the Level 3 Award in Sake. This is a new, 8 week course developed by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) that promises to delve deep into the fascinating world of sake and, like other WSET programming, will have the structure, support and high standards that has made WSET a global name in wine and spirits education.
The WSET Level 3 Award in Sake will be offered globally and will be taught by sake experts, including myself, who have undertaken rigorous training and examinations administered by WSET. Recently potential instructors were invited to attend the sake instructor certification in Japan. Although only a handful of instructor candidates were selected to participate in the certification process, the world was represented by candidates from Hong Kong, China, Korea, United Arab Emirates, United States and Canada. Our tour was an intense seven days of class seminars, brewery visits, tastings and meetings across four of Japan’s prefectures. The week culminated with a visit to the National Research Institute of Brewing (NRIB) in Hiroshima where we attended lectures with some of the Institute’s most venerable professors, including a fascinating lecture on the history of sake with noted sake historian Dr. Shuji Horie. In addition, we participated in the NRIB’s sensory evaluation and sake assessor training, which included palate and aroma intensive exercises to enhance tasting skills and mastery of sake tasting.
The National research Institute of Brewing in Hiroshima is behind many of the advancements in sake over the past 100 years. We had the opportunity to enhance our sake tasting skills by partaking in segments of the Institute’s sensory evaluation program.
Among the many highlights of the tour were two special tastings with representatives of some of Japan’s most revered breweries, including Sekiya Shuzo (Houraisen), Daishichi, Dewazakura, Rihaku, Kamoizumi, Urakasumi, and Hanahato. These tastings gave us a chance to experience a multitude of sake side by side amongst a group of highly knowledgable individuals. In other words, absorbing sake wisdom from Japan’s sake elite!
Of the many delicious sakes we tried was this 150th Anniversary Houraisen Junmai Daiginjo from Aichi’s Sekiya Shuzo.
Armed with the experiences of this trip, instructors who successfully passed their examinations and were certified have now returned to their home countries to prepare a rewarding, in-depth and complete sake course for those who also want to improve their sake knowledge. The WSET sake course will cover fundamental concepts including how to taste and assess sake, understanding the ingredients that go into making sake and how they interact in all steps of sake production, reading the kanji on sake labels, sake and food pairing, in addition to sake service and storage. Consequently, the course will provide a comprehensive package of information on, and insights into, the world of sake, and is ideal for anyone wanting to learn more about the beverage, including the general sake enthusiast and the sake professional (everyone is welcome!). I look forward to showing why I am so passionate about sake when I teach this course, and hope participants finish the course with the same enthusiasm and appreciation for this special beverage.
Canada’s first sake certification will also offer students a chance to explore the inner workings of a sake brewery by visiting the Ontario Spring Water Sake Co., makers of the Izumi brand. Students will also taste a multitude of sake in class which are not readily available in Canada. The course will wrap up just in time for students to test their sake knowledge at this year’s Kampai, where approximately 150 sakes will be available to sample. If you are curious about sake, this course in not to be missed! Anyone interested should attend IWEG’s ‘An Evening with Sake’ on Thursday, February 26 to learn more. Visit https://www.iweg.org/courses/wset-level-3-award-in-sake for more information.