New Zealand just got its first saké professional

Our craft beer market has plenty of gurus willing to provide you brews on your journey of beer discovery, but in New Zealand it’s a little tough to find the right person to guide you through your saké experience. Once you get the taste for saké you never go back. Now, Fuminobu (Fumi) Nakatani – the manager of the award-winning Japanese robata restaurant and bar MASU by Nic Watt at SKYCITY – has stepped in to fill the breach. He’s recently been awarded the international qualification in saké from the London-based Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET).

It sounds like a rough qualification to study for, and no doubt he had some late-night study breaks. The WSET is an accredited awarding body and one of the most prestigious global educators of the alcohol beverage market. WSET qualifications are recognised as the international standard in wine and spirit knowledge.

The 43-year-old achieved the advanced level qualification with a distinction pass rate and plans to use his new qualification to continue to build awareness of and excitement around the saké culture and saké in NZ. Very proud of his Japanese culture, Nakatani feels he almost has a responsibility for spreading the word about the culture surrounding the famed beverage.
“Building and sharing the knowledge about saké is a goal I share with Nic-san and the team at MASU,” Nakatani says.

In the spirit of sharing some knowledge we’ve put together some sakÉ etiquette tips:

TEMPERATURE

It’s important to serve saké at the correct temperature, depending on what type you are serving, because it can significantly affect the taste.

Gingo or Daigingo: drink it chilled, but not too cold or you’ll destroy the intricacies, similar to white wine.
Namazake: drink it a bit warmer, but still at around 7 degrees.
Junmai or Honjozo: Room temperature is just fine for these ones.

PERFECTING THE POUR

While pouring a beer is a scientific endeavour to keep the beer as pristine and protected from the air as possible, with saké, it’s all about respecting the guest. You should always pour the saké for your guests and then they will reciprocate for you.

When someone is pouring saké for you, it is polite to hold your cup up with one hand and to put the other hand under the cup.

TAKE IT SLOW

Much like in Russia where house parties will see people nursing shot glasses, sipping is considered to be more elegant than drinking your whole cup at one time.

KNOW HOW TO STOP

If you aren’t paying attention, your companions will keep filling up your glass like those sneaky waiters who get you sloshed at functions by keeping your wine topped up. If you don’t want any more, place your hand on your cup or leave the cup full.