Booze | December 4, 2020 11:50 am

The Former Cellarmaster of Dom Pérignon Wants to Reinvent Sake

IWA 5 is an untraditional sake blend with an international pedigree

IWA 5
IWA's initial sake release is an ambitious blend
IWA Sake

The key to turning sake from an occasional Japanese-dinner accompaniment into a household drinking staple might lie with … Champagne?

Richard Geoffroy, Dom Pérignon’s former chef de cave (cellarmaster) for over three decades, has moved to rural Japan to rethink and energize the sake category. The 66-year old’s new creation, IWA 5, launches stateside in February (it’s already available overseas).

A collaboration with the Masuizumi brewery in Toyama, Geoffroy’s new release is an attempt at a more expansive sake that can pair well with any cuisine. It’s also the rare international sake collaboration: Besides the French connection here, Australian Marc Newson designed the bottle and Japanese architect Kengo Kuma designed the sake’s new brewery, opening in spring 2021.

Geoffroy’s ambition was to create a sake that could pair with many types of cuisine – not just Japanese. “If you want to achieve that kind of latitude, that flex, you need an element of balance and complexity that cannot be achieved with a single brewing or vat,” as he tells the Financial Times.

So he’s offering a untraditional blend of rice varieties, terroirs and yeast strains. As FT‘s review notes, the final product goes from stone fruit and pear to fig and wood spice as it warms in the glass, with a salty-sweetness on the finish; overall, it’s “harmonious, with … a seamless silkiness.”

It sounds promising: One initial review suggests a hefty mouthfeel and a sake that would pair well with duck or pad thai.

And as the sake’s official site suggests, this is “five classes of elements [that] sing in unison to create IWA 5. The rice class, for instance, comprises three varieties: Yamada Nishiki, Omachi, Gohyakumangoku. In the yeast class, five strains are brought together. Also brought into play are the origin of the rice, the yeast propagation method (moto) and the regimes of fermentation. The blend is the controlled interplay of these many instruments to define a world of possibilities and select the few ones worth pursuing and refining into euphony.”