Sep 1, 2015

Mr. John Gauntner / Seduced by Sake

John Gauntner is a name that needs no introduction in the sake industry. Read on to learn more about this illustrious figure.

If you have a niggling question about sake or sake culture, John Gauntner is your guy. Known as “The Sake Guy” or “The Sake Evangelist”, the affable American has been writing and lecturing about sake since 1994 and is widely recognised as the world’s leading non-Japanese sake expert. In fact, in 2006, Gauntner was awarded the designation of “Sake Samurai” by the Japan Sake Brewers Association Junior Council, for his work in raising awareness about sake and sake culture around the world.

In August 2015, Gauntner was invited to be a guest speaker at the Sake Summit organised by IVGS Group Pte Ltd. This was his second time in Singapore, and we simply could not pass up on the chance to find out more about sake appreciation from the man himself.



Where It All Began

So how did his love affair with sake start? Gauntner says, “I’ve been living in Japan since 1988. On New Year’s Day 1989, a co-worker let me try some of the good stuff. From there, I became very interested in learning more about the different types of sake. I met a guy from The Japan Times newspaper who commissioned me to write an article on sake and that soon led to a column, and then a book.”

Today, Gauntner has published six books and countless articles on the topic. He also publishes a free monthly newsletter, and offers a slew of digital products to demystify the world of sake.


Sake Appreciation 101

One of the common mistakes people make when it comes to sake appreciation is likening it to grape wine. However, Gauntner says there is no “authentic” way to enjoy sake and sake appreciation is mostly up to individual tastes and preferences. He advises, “When tasting sake, taste it slowly – don’t down it like a shot, and don’t overheat it either. Taste it slowly so that you can enjoy its different aromas and flavours.”


Three “Rules” For The Sake Beginner

When introducing first-time sake drinkers to the world of Japanese rice wine, Gauntner uses these 3 tips as guidelines. However, he adds, “Each of these rules can be broken.”

  1. Go for Ginjo
    “When in doubt, opt for ginjo as it’s among the top 10 percent of all sake. This includes anything with ginjo in the grade – junmai daiginjo, daiginjo, junmai ginjo, and ginjo.”
  2. Drink your sake slightly chilled
    “While there are exceptions, I usually recommend enjoying your ginjo slightly chilled.”
  3. Make your decision based on price
    “As 90 percent of all sake is fairly priced, make a decision based on price. The more you pay, the better quality the sake is likely to be. It’s really as simple as that!”