The Australian Sake Festival was held at Paddington Town Hall in Sydney on Saturday, October 1st, 2022. JAMS TV Pty Ltd, which provides a wide range of Australian lifestyle and tourism information and advertising services, both online and offline, hosted the event in cooperation with Japanese residents in Australia, local businesses, government agencies and organisations.
The event aims to offer many people living in Australia the chance to experience the deep flavours of Japanese sake in a familiar setting and to highlight its age-old deliciousness in a new and exciting way, with tradition and innovation as key themes. The event’s main attraction is that visitors can taste more than 200 varieties of sake, drawing attention hand in hand with Japanese food. Tickets sold out as quickly as three weeks before the event.
Japanese culture showcased at the Australian Sake Festival
More than 200 types of sake, including junmai (pure rice) sake, Junmai Daiginjo, and fruit sakes such as plum and yuzu, was featured at the venue. A unique array of sakes appeared in the market, courtesy of Australia’s leading Japanese food wholesalers Jun Pacific, JFC Australia, and Daiwa Food, as well as sake-related importers and wholesalers Sakenet Australia, Sakelier, and Sakemate.
In addition to freely sampling any sake, visitors could purchase any displayed bottles. Sake cups other tableware, and Japanese appetizers to enhance the sake experience, were also available for purchase, making this a fully immersive, international sake event. The event featured Japanese cuisines such as sushi, char-grilled wagyu beef, Japanese vegan dishes, and natto (fermented soybeans) produced in Sydney.
The event was divided into two alternating sessions, with each session attended by 500 visitors. Sake lovers came from many countries, including Japan. However, almost 80 to 90% of the attendees were local Australians, reflecting the popularity of sake within the country.
The event opened with a live performance by taiko drummer Wadaiko Rindo. A DJ provided soothing background music while the Consul General of the Japanese Consulate in Sydney and the Director of the JETRO Sydney office took to the stage. Each expressed their appreciation for the growth of sake culture, serving as one of the bridges between Australia and Japan.
The event also included an awards ceremony for the Australian Sake Awards held last month by JAMS.TV Pty, Ltd, a panel featuring professionals engaged in spreading sake in Australia, and a kimono performance by HANANINGEN, all magnifying the sake-tasting experience and the mood at the venue.
Japanese sake and food vendors at the venue
Announcing the winners of the Australian Sake Awards
The Australian Sake Awards preceded this event and were held at the same venue on Saturday, September 17th, 2022. At the competition, a panel of preselected Australian judges tasted and judged both domestic and international sake entries, choosing the ones that would be most popular in the Australian market. To convey the wide-ranging charms of sake, cultivate the next generation of sake experts, and develop the sake market in Australia, the competition brought in seasoned professionals who work with sakes most familiar to the consumer as judges, conducting blind tastings that covered brands and labels to ensure fairness.
The competition included a total of eight screening categories: Junmai Sake, Junmai Daiginjo, Junmai Daiginjo, Ginjo/Daiginjo, Nama Sake/Harajinjo, Honjozo/Ordinary Sake, Sparkling Sake, and Aged Sake. The Australian Sake Awards ended on a high note, with the judges thoroughly enjoying their time tasting the various sakes.
Sixty-three high-scoring sake brands were selected from a total of 196 brands, with 8 receiving the top Platinum Award, 36 — the top 20% — receiving the Gold Award, and 19 from the entire list of sake entries receiving the People’s Choice Award. The winning sakes were announced by the leading judges of the competition in the first part of the event, where the public enjoyed tasting them.
Click here for a list of the award-winning sakes
Words from the Consulate-General of Japan in Sydney and JETRO Sydney
We asked the speakers who gave opening remarks for their candid impressions after attending the event.
“I was thrilled to discover over 200 varieties of sake. That so many Australians visited the venue and enjoyed the sake was an encouraging sign of the potential of the domestic market here. Also, the kimono performance by HANANINGEN was terrific. We heartily congratulate the success of the Australian Sake Festival and encourage the continued growth and development of sake in Sydney and Australia.”
“I was impressed by the huge number of people, young and old, enjoying sake. It was a chance to learn about and compare a wide variety of sake, from daiginjo and nama sake to unfiltered and sparkling sake. I hope that together we can continue to build momentum to encourage Australians to enjoy sake.”
Event recap from the organiser
Tsuyoshi Endo, Managing Director of JAMS.TV Pty Ltd, the organiser of this event, set out to promote the appeal of sake in Australia by holding events in two formats: the Australian Sake Awards for sake professionals and an Australian Sake Festival for the general public to enjoy the taste of sake.
“We launched the project with the hope of spreading the charms of sake, and over the past nine months, we carefully prepared for the event, consulting with people involved in sake in various ways. As we are not directly involved in the production or sale of sake, we were unsure how we should present sake, which is deeply related to the culture and lifestyle of the Japanese people, and what kind of message we should convey here in Australia. We had discussions with sake importers and wholesalers, food exhibitors, stage performers, etc., to find the best format to hold this event. With the help of so many people, we considered many different styles at different levels, eventually deciding on holding a competition and a festival.”
Seeing the success of the event and the joyful faces of the visitors, Mr Endo smiles as he speaks.
From our visitors’ expressions at the event, you can see the fruits of the many hours of preparation everyone has put in. Everyone was enthusiastic about sake, eager to listen to the breweries and distributors, smiling and talking with each other, creating so many positive encounters. In the process, I am sure that each visitor made discoveries about sake and Japanese culture. I am pleased that everyone had such a fulfilling time throughout the festival.”
Mr Endo enthusiastically tells us that “sake culture still has a long way to go in spreading its traditional and innovative appeal in Australia, a country with a rich international character and a high level of culinary excellence.” JAMS.TV Pty Ltd, as well as Japanese residents in Australia and local companies and organisations, will continue to promote the appeal of sake and Japanese culture in Australia.
All photos by Hiroto Yamada