International SAKE Challenge



The following five categories will be used as divisions for the 11th International Sake Challenge.

Daiginjo-shu & Ginjo-shu
Junmai Daiginjo-shu
Junmai Ginjo-shu
Kimoto and Yamahai types (of all grades)

The honjozo classification, while a valid class of premium sake, has not been included for two reasons. One is to streamline the judging of the entries, the other is that it resides at the low end of the premium sake range, and accordingly is not as popular amongst consumers and potential overseas customers.

The reasoning for the kimoto/yamahai classification is that the usually distinct style of these types would potentially make them so drastically different from most of the other sake that a direct comparison would be difficult at best; it would be goranges and apples.h

Admittedly, there are kimoto/yamahai products that are not as bold as most, but note that brewers are free to submit such products into the other categories, and are not obligated to submit them in the kimoto/yamahai division. As such, this classification would likely contain sake that are distinctive in their representation of the idiosyncrasies of the yamahai/kimoto styles.

Ginjo and Junmai Ginjo (as well as Daiginjo and Junmai Daginjo) present flavor profiles that are, in a general sense, different enough to validate separate categories. Furthermore, attitudes and philosophies amongst the judges toward these grades may vary from person to person.


A key to the validity and credibility of the event will be that high level wine tasters will be assessing sake side by side with high level sake tasting professionals. Yet these two groups will likely have their preferences and comfort zones related to tasting glassware.

What should be avoided at all costs is a situation in which a taster, either Japanese or otherwise, felt that the importance, validity or credibility of the event was adversely affected by the choice of glassware. It would be a shame if a Japanese judge were to say, gI was just not comfortable tasting sake from a wine glass,h or alternatively having an international wine judge comment along the lines of gHow can they really assess such fine premium sake from a straight-sided tumbler and not a tulip-shaped glass?h All judges need to walk away feeling they were equipped well enough to do their best and be satisfied with the results.

Furthermore, it seems appropriate to allow the international judges to experience and enjoy judging sake in the same way it is normally done by Japanese judges in Japan.

As such, the sake bottles to be tasted will be lined up along the edge of a table with a standard 180 ml "kiki-choko" official tasting glass set in front of it. All judges will taste and score at their own pace from this glass. However, standard wine glasses will also be made available for those judges that may be more comfortable with that option. Judges will be free to use either. Riedel daiginjo glasses will be offered in place of the wine glass, but for diaginjo classes only.

The above will ensure thoroughness and a high level of comfort for all judges.


Gold, Silver, Bronze Medals and Seal of Approval
All Sakes entered are tasted by the judges as well as by the Co-Chairmen to ensure that no Sake is overlooked or unfairly assessed. A Sake will win a Gold Medal if it reaches a score of at least 18.5 out of 20; a Silver Medal if the score is between 17 and 18.4; a Bronze Medal if the score is between 15.5 and 16.9; and a Seal of Approval if the score is between 14.5 and 15.4.

In addition to the above medals, and if in the opinion of the judges the Sake so merits, the top Gold Medal-winning Sake in each of the 6 categories will be eligible to receive a Trophy Award. These are decided by the judges after ranking the Gold Medals in the following Trophy Categories:

Trophy for Best Daiginjyo/Ginjyo
Trophy for Best Junmai Daiginjyo
Trophy for Best Junmai Ginjyo
Trophy for Best Junmai
Trophy for Best Kimoto and Yamahai Types (of all grades)

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