Interview with the Vice President of Fukuju brewery

Q: 1. Which developments in the sake world do you find particularly interesting at the moment and which do you dislike?

A: In the past, cheap sake with little flavor was often popular, but that has changed now. Both in Japan and abroad, high quality and a wide range of flavors are becoming increasingly important. I think this is a very good development in which foreign countries are playing an increasingly important role.

At the moment, for example, I find the taste trends in Japan problematic. Sweet sake is becoming increasingly popular with consumers. But not only sweet Junmai Ginjos, which are often brewed in a fruity, perhaps sweet, direction are popular, but also sweet Junmai are increasingly requested, although they should actually be stronger flavors and drier. I think that not only sweetness, but clear and sharper flavors are also important. I would find it very problematic if the sweetness prevailed in all sake categories.

Q: 2. What is typical of sake from your region?

A: Definitely water. Hard water is very common in Europe, but rare in Japan. The water here in the region is hard and rich in minerals and influences the taste of our sake. I think it is largely thanks to the water that we use that the taste of our sake remains so constant.

Q: 3. What do you think makes a good sake?

A: For me this is the same question as: what is delicious sake? For me personally, I would say that sake is good sake if you can see in it the efforts of the people who brewed it.

Q: 4. What do you find fascinating about your job and which experience was particularly important for your work?

A: For me, sake brewing is Japanese culture. An important part of Japanese culture that I definitely don't want to lose and that I hope will always be passed on to the next generation. That would make me proud.
More related to the handicraft, I think it's very Japanese to deal with something so deeply; To think through every step completely, to illuminate it from all sides and to always work with the thought: it can be done even better. Working towards perfection without attaining it is, I believe, "typically" Japanese indeed. Although I think that's a good quality, you should be very careful not to stray too far from the customer. It is important to see what is selling well? What is popular with consumers? I think it is very important to try this sake and then reflect on your own sake in order to be able to respond to the various wishes of the consumers.

Q: 5. How important is the international recognition of sake to you?

A: That is a very difficult point. Interestingly, America and Europe are completely different here. In America it is not that difficult to enter the market with an easy-to-understand sake, a sake that is "trendy". Especially in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, where it is very important to try out the "trendsetters", you are well advised with sake that is easily accessible in terms of taste.
In Europe, on the other hand, sake needs a story. Who brewed it? Where is he from? In France, for example, the more special sake, brewed according to the Kimoto method or aged, are particularly popular.

For us it is a great encouragement that sake is also becoming more popular abroad, but for us it also means that we have to think about how we can bring sake to people. You can't just go to Europe and say, "this is sake, try it", after all, the people there didn't grow up with sake and may not even know what it is. Thinking about how we can bring this to people is an important part of what we do at our brewery. I think when we show people how sake is made, what its cultural background is and how it is drunk in Japan, the interest in tasting and drinking it will also come.

Q: 6. What do you drink in your spare time besides sake?

A: Wine. I love sake and wine. I would like sake to become as natural a part of the menu as it is with wine.

Q: 7. A recommendation of one of your sake and a matching dish?

A: So if I think of Kobe now, I would in fact recommend our Kimoto Sake or Junmai with Kobe Beef. That just fits very well. It is interesting that the Japanese from the region usually drink wine with Kobe beef, while foreigners always want sake with it. But that is probably logical, if I go to Scotland, I want to drink Scottish whiskey and not American.

(The interview was conducted in Japanese by Alissa Scherzer - self translated)

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