The 2023 Judging session is over

On Saturday 22nd July 2023, the Australian Sake Awards were held in Sydney for the second year running. 

This year, the event took place at the historical Customs House, located in Circular Quay, within walking distance of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.

We were able to make many improvements on last year’s event, including the decision to sit the judges at round tables, allowing for team discussion where appropriate and creating an inclusive and team-like atmosphere amongst the judges. This also enabled our new judges to feel more comfortable during their first experience of judging at the awards.

More than half of the judges tasting this year were part of the awards in 2022. 

The Australian-based pre-selected jury of judges for this year included many industry professionals and was made up of Australian sommeliers, sake retailers, food and beverage industry professionals, sake qualification holders, and sake importers and wholesalers.

This year the Australian Sake Awards received sponsorship from the exclusive national research institute for alcoholic beverages in Japan, the National Research Institute of Brewing. Through this, we were able to invite their chief researcher, Mr Ken Oda, as our guest judge. It was an honour to have Oda-san’s presence and expertise amongst our 2023 judging panel. 

“It’s a great event and a real gateway into the Australian market for breweries across Japan”, says Oda-san.  

In the lead up to the judging of the Australian Sake Awards, judges attended two online lectures which included a wonderful presentation from Mr. Ken Oda.

On the day of judging the 51 judges were divided into groups of 7 or 8 and each judge tasted 45 different sakes.

All of the sake tasted had been submitted from breweries throughout Japan who had sent in their application to enter the competition earlier this year.

The primary purpose of the Australian Sake Awards is to recognise the kind of sake that is popular with consumers in Australia and to ultimately be able to give each individual brewery feedback based on the judges scores and written feedback. Through this, we hope to strengthen ties with breweries in Japan and allow them to better understand the sake market in Australia,

The categories were divided into the following:

  • Honjozo and futsushu
  • Junmai
  • Junmai ginjo
  • Ginjo and daiginjo
  • Junmai daiginjo
  • Sparkling
  • Nama and Nama genshu
  • Koshu

Each sake was assessed on aroma, taste and balance, receiving a score out of 10. 1 being flawed and 10 being outstanding. Judges then gave an overall score between 1 and 10 based on the assessment of the aforementioned attributes.

There was also a comment section where judges could submit written feedback on each sake, including food pairing suggestions. 

All the above data will be collected and submitted to the relevant breweries.

Melbourne based Simone Maynard, a Sake Samurai and a member of the team of head judges for this event says, “it’s a great opportunity for brewers in Japan to get valuable feedback from Australian consumers. Hopefully through events like these awards, we will see more sake coming to Australia and more breweries entering the Australian Sake Awards in the future.”

Owner of Wine Knight Consulting in Sydney, Dennis Han, who is also amongst the team of head judges says, “these awards really showcase the diversity and high quality of Japanese sake in Australia.”

The results of the judging are scheduled to be announced in mid-August, and the awards ceremony is scheduled to take place in Sydney this September, prior to the Australian Sake Festival.

Official Video and Photos

Video Production: Maiko Videography

All photo: Sayu Matsunaga

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