Zenkoku-Shinshu-Kanpyokai (National New Sake Appraising and Deliberating Fair) is one of the most famous and oldest sake fairs. It was established in 1911 and has been held every year except two (during WWII and the relocation of the National Research Institute of Brewing headquarters).
The purpose of this fair is to identify and support current brewing technique trends and benchmark quality, and to boost Japanese interest in sake.
IWC evaluates in a similar way to wine and also considers the global palate with a focus on the consumer. Against that, Zenkoku-Shinshu-Kanpyokai has great interest in improving brewing techniques and sake quality. This fair is a great day out for consumers as well as the brewers who are attending as a means of assessing their current skill and the quality of the sake they produce.
There are very strict requirements for acceptance into the fair. Sake must be Ginjo style, Shinshu (unaged) and Genshu (non-diluted), with an acidity greater than 1.0.
The fair is designed to improve brewing techniques, so the result and analysis report are returned to each brewery. Forty-five judges are drawn from sake brewers, the National Research Institute of Brewing, the National Tax Agency Office of Analysis and Brewing Technology and more. They are divided into three groups to evaluate sake.
Normally half of the entries do not qualify for the final round, held approximately 2 weeks later. In 2017, 860 bottles were on the table for the preliminary round.
In this session, all entry bottles are divided into groups of around 50 bottles. No more than 50 bottles are evaluated in each session and judges evaluate no more than 150 bottles a day. Judges can take a 20-minute break between sessions.
#1. Preparation for evaluation
Before evaluation, judges evaluate each sake for the existence of any of 21 different types of nose. These 21 different noses are made by the addition of specific substances in Ginjo sake, such as such as isoamyl acetate, ethyl caproate, ethyl acetate, isoamyl alcohol, acetaldehyde, TCA (trichloro anisole), diacetly and others.
Since one of the purposes of this fair is to give feedback to improve brewing techniques, odor detection relating to specific, not-ideal, procedures is helpful. For example, Acetaldehyde indicates that the moromi has not matured enough. Unmatured moromi has more pyruvic acid which is a metabolite of alcoholic fermentation. If distilled alcohol is added in the moromi, the number of acetaldehyde is increased. The fact that sake release this nose guides the brewer to learn that distilled alcohol has been added to the moromi too early.
Similarly, the nose of TCA (trichloroanisole: musty odor) is transferred from a wooden apparatus and/or packaging materials contaminated with TCA.
Diacetyl has a nose like yoghurt, butter and black vinegar. When moromi is pressed when it holds a lot of α- acetolactate or it is still immature, sake release this specific nose.
If more than two judges mark on the same characteristics of nose, these characteristics and the number of people who mark it is written on the final result given to the producers.
#2. Examination items
Quality of nose
Quality of taste
Flavor of fragrance
Type of taste (sweet, dry, bitter etc)
All eight of these mandatory items are rated out of five.
No more than 50 bottles are evaluated in each session and judges are permitted to evaluate no more than 250 bottles a day. Judges can take a 10 minute break between sessions (half the break time of the previous round).Judges conclude the overall assessment according to 4 scales showing the balance between nose and taste and other characteristics.
Scale 1: excellent
Scale 2: good
Scale 3: acceptable
Scale 4: “Not selected in scale 1, 2 or 3” [ie, unacceptable]
Results of BY (brewing year) 2016
The typical BY 2016 sake has a higher kasu-buai of 46.8% (hyperlink), compared with BY 2016 of 40.6%. Additionally the aroma component was generally lessened (the volume of ethyl caproate dropped from an average of 8.1 ppm to 7.4 ppm).
Both of these characteristics are related to the quality of rice, which is heavily dependent on the growing conditions in the month after the ears of rice come out. If the temperature in the period is high (such as it was late August to early September 2016, amylopectin in the rice becomes longer which leads lower solubility , harder rice, shorter moromi duration and ultimately higher kasu-buai and lower ethyl caproate concentration.
To sum up, BY 2016 sake in general has lower intensity of nose and is less sweet than the previous year, complemented by a clean, more pleasant taste as well.At any rate, awarded sake is meaningful because it provides useful information for those who do not yet have enough knowledge to choose a sake in accordance with their preference.
Apart from the information conveyed in the competition outcomes within the fair, we believe that consumers need more knowledge. Wine connoisseurs can choose their preferred wine by grape variety and region, even if they don’t know a particular producer or brand. This is matter of education and information, so the more opportunity to learn about sake, the more knowledgeable consumers will be. We firmly believe that once they can choose their preferred sake by similar means to the way they choose wine, consumer behavior will dramatically change, and brewers need to be ready.
We look forward to the expansion of the event to include education opportunities and the provision of quality information from brewers and breweries, alongside the existing quality assessment and competition.