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Japanese Brewer Creates World-First Sparkling Sake with Star Chef Alain Ducasse
Japanese sake brewery Shichiken has co-developed the world's first sparkling sake with world-famous Michelin star chef Alain Ducasse in cooperation with Japan's National Tax Agency.
The new brew is an example of how sake brewers are innovating as domestic sake sales decline - some brewers are even expanding into cosmetic products to diversify their business.
The Alain Ducasse Sparkling Sake will be served at Ducasse Paris restaurants worldwide from late this month.
The brewery describes the sparkling sake as gentle, fruit-forward, and with an underlying hint of sweet and bitter notes derived from the barrel, which leads to “a calm and pleasant finish”.
After a creative exchange on flavour direction with Gerard Margeson, chief sommelier at Ducasse Paris, senior managing director and master brewer of Yamanashi Meijo, Ryogo Kitahara, created the sparkling sake using water from Hakushu and a technique called "Kijoshu" to create the base.
The sake was aged in cherry barrels, which add a hint of sweetness and structure to the liquor, before finishing it using a secondary fermentation in-bottle, a process similar to making Champagne.
The sparkling sake, priced at JPY5000, (US$46) will also be available to the general public in Japan on Shichiken's online shopping site from April 29.
Data from the National Tax Agency shows domestic shipments of sake peaked back in 1973 at over 1.7 million kilolitres, but by 2019 sales had slumped to just 460,000 kilolitres as consumers shifted to alternatives such as beer, cocktails and even imported wine. The coronavirus crisis has even accelerated the trend.
That trend has prompted some sake brewers to experiment with creating cosmetics based on rice fermentation liquids or other byproducts during the past decade – but according to Japan News, the challenging business environment post-Covid has made the shift to the beauty category more urgent for some larger companies. Restrictions on restaurant trading hours in the wake of the pandemic has reduced on-premise sales, a core channel for large manufacturers.
Last September, a men’s skin lotion bearing the Kiku-Masamune brand, a well-known and respected sake logo to Japanese consumers, began appearing on store shelves. Priced at ¥1320 for a 150ml bottle it was as much as twice the price of rival products from mainstream cosmetics companies, but the Kiku-Masamune brand was strong enough to command such a price and sales exceeded the company’s annual target within six months.
Another brewer Nihonsakari launched a brand called Que Serasera last November, aimed at women aged 50-plus. The premium brand follows a more mainstream cosmetic range it has selling for 30 years.
The only impediment to the sake companies’ cosmetics ambitions is that overall demand among Japanese consumers for cosmetics is falling because people are venturing out less during the pandemic – and thus using less makeup.
Data from the Yano Research Institute shows the nation’s domestic cosmetics market shrank by nearly 10 per cent year on year last year.