Certified Sake Sommelier Course

Certified Sake Sommelier Course accredited by London based Sake Sommelier Academy was organized in Oslo on 28 and 29 February 2016 in close cooperation with Nøgne Ø

It was held at the basement of Alex Sushi Solli Plass, an artistic and tastefully decorated event venue with modern AV system. Participants of the course were sommeliers who are also beverage managers from leading restaurants around the country such as Alex Sushi, Nodee, Kita (Stavanger), To Rom og Kjøkken (Trondheim), and fellow brewery representative from Lervig which has just brewed beer with Japanese twist (with Yuzu), as well as a representative of Moestue, which has started importing Sake into Norwegian market and Arne Austbø, author of cook book “Sushi fra Hav til Fat” and the chef of Taku. Martin, new sales representative from Nøgne Ø also joined. After two days of intensive learning, the participants took written and practical exam and I am happy to announce that they all did exceptionally well.

They will soon receive Sake Sommelier pin and a certificate from Sake Sommelier Academy in London. Some of them will be crowned with triple (wine, beer and sake) or double (wine and sake) sommelier qualifications as a result of this.

This will open doors to participate in the London Sake Challenge which is organized by the Sake Sommelier Association once a year in August at the wine room of notable Harrods Department Store in London and it is certainly a great opportunity to taste and evaluate a large number of sakes with other fellow Sake Sommeliers from around the world and to learn, network and exchange information face-to-face.

During a two-day intensive course, participants learned the history of sake which dates more than 2000 years back, culture closely related to sake and a complex production process and how it affects the designation and types of sake. They also learned how to read sake labels, magic of serving sake at different temperatures, and quintessential “Umami” in sake which comes to the fore when paring with food. We were also very fortunate to welcome Halvor Digernes, the founder of Fuglen Cocktail Bar, to share the art of sake cocktail-making who demonstrated three distinct types of sake cocktails, two shaken and one stirred, from Nøgne Ø Namagenshu, Junmai and Sparkling sakes. He was in the middle of opening two new bars in the same week and we appreciated his dedication and passion for what he loves and what he is very good at!

Halvor making sake cocktails

Halvor making sake cocktails

Participants had the chance to taste last year’s IWC champion sake, which was sold out in Japan, (Aizuhomare’s Banshu Yamadanishiki Junmai Daiginjo), six-year oak barrel matured sake (seimaibuai 90% Junmai) from Suehiro (which was also sold out in Japan), and Junmai Ginjo Fukuju from Kobe Shushinkan, which is said to be served at Nobel prize award dinners in Stockholm, Junmai and Junmai Ginjo sakes from Fukumitsuya, sparkling sakes from Ninki and Toyokuni, all sakes from Nøgne Ø including soon to be released Nigori (and Sparkling, Junmai, Namagenshu, Motoshibori, Kijoshu) as well as specialty sakes such as All Koji vintage sake and Yuzu sake.

They also tasted Nøgne Ø fresh sake lees topped with brown sugar and ginger and savoured Ishikari Nabe (salmon hotpot with miso and sake lees soup broth) for the first day’s lunch.
We also had a surprise visit of NHK International (Japanese version of BBC World) film crew who were making a 15 minutes documentary on Nøgne Ø, the first sake brewery in Europe as one of the episodes in “Japan meets Europe” series.

Participants came to the classroom well before the start of the lecture and they all asked very pertinent questions which in turn enriched the classroom experience. At the end of the course, we were all reminded that the more we drink “sake” the deeper our knowledge and appreciation of this magical drink develops!  Many participants expressed their appreciation for Norway spearheading the production of Sake in Europe and brewing high quality fresh sakes.

Congratulations to you all for spending your weekend learning together and Kanpai for the future of your never-ending sake related journey!

My heartfelt appreciation goes to all the participants who made this course very special, Alex sushi for hosting the course, Halvor for generously accepting to give a module on Sake Cocktails between his unbelievably busy schedule and Ms. Aino Karvo, sake sommelier from Finland, for meticulously assisting me, Sake Sommelier Academy for a thorough backstopping from London and last but not least, Nøgne Ø for making this course happen again in Norway!!!

Kaori Ishii
Sales/Taste Promotor, Nøgne Ø
Sake Educator, Sake Sommelier Association, London