The position of sake in Japan has been established for centuries by its inclusion in countless aspects of Japanese traditions and culture.
It is the beverage that seals the Shinto wedding vows, celebrates new business partnerships, and is even offered to the spirits of ancestors in home shrines.
But only recently has the idea of sake as a world-class beverage taken hold in Japan, and with it, a sort of revolution in the techniques and flavors of this age-old drink. The 20th-century influx of Western alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, and whiskey changed the palettes of Japanese consumers.
Western spirits were regarded as complex and sophisticated, while sake was viewed as a drink for the average man. For nearly a century, sake brewers seemed resigned to their fate as second-tier beverage makers until a few innovative upstarts began experimenting with the manufacturing process.
The successful innovations led to improvements in the flavor of sake and complexity more akin to wine. Takahashi Shuzo is one of the leaders in this sake revolution. Located in picturesque Niigata Prefecture, where the warm and cold currents of the Japan Sea meet, this area is the largest rice producer in Japan.
Rice paddies fed by the Shinano and Agano rivers' crystal clear waters are farmed by a people whose experience with rice extends for generations. The area boasts the largest number of sake breweries in Japan, of which Takahashi Shuzo sits near the top.
Setting Takahashi Shuzo apart are innovative products that are collaborations with world-class chefs and sommeliers from around the world. Kawa Semi no Tabi, "Kingfisher's Journey" sake was described by Jean-Paul Hevin, the world's leading chocolatier, as "the sake that goes best with chocolate."
In France, Kingfisher's Journey's sake is available at Hevin's boutique, Joel Robuchon, Alain Ducasse, and other prominent restaurants and chocolatiers. The popularity of Kingfisher's Journey has been spreading, spotted in fine restaurants from New York to Hong Kong as well. Kingfisher's Journey is an ultra-sweet sake, with flavors reminiscent of fruity white wine.
According to Hevin himself, the recommended way to enjoy this sake with chocolate is this: Take a small sip of sake and let the aroma spread in your mouth. Don't put the chocolate and sake together in your mouth at the same time.
Let the flavors of the sake and chocolates mingle in your mouth as you alternate between the two. Kingfisher's Journey is not only delicious with chocolate, but it also pairs well with meat dishes and heavy, rich foods like Gorgonzola cheese.