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Richard Geoffroy releases the ‘Dom Pérignon P2 of sakes’

Dom Pérignon’s former chef de cave, Richard Geoffroy, has released an ultra-premium blend of aged sakes called Reserves that he has dubbed “the P2 of sakes”.

Disrupting the sake category with a new concept, IWA 5 Reserves, which is made at Geoffroy’s brewery in Tateyama in Japan’s Toyama Prefecture, will carry an RRP of around £200 per 1.8l bottle when it goes on sale in the UK later this year.

Displaying more umami and tertiary notes than a young sake, the high-end blend recently launched in Japan and parts of Asia, and has been so well received that Geoffroy is keen to increase production of it.

While IWA 5 takes the vintage Champagne approach of capturing the characteristics of a single year, Reserves is more akin to a multi-vintage blend.

Speaking to db, Geoffroy said he was keen to shine a light on the ageing potential of sake through the Reserves release.

“IWA 5 is a blend of young sakes, and with Reserves, I’m turning the concept on its head by creating a blend of mature sakes. The average age of the sakes in the blend is four years, as I don’t want them to be overly matured. I want to keep it highly drinkable and approachable, but I like the mellow, earthy, mushroom character you get from bottle-aged sakes,” he said.

Geoffroy hopes the release will challenge the misconception that sake can’t age.

“Reserves is the sake equivalent of Dom Pérignon P2, and with this concept I want to push sake to another level. I’ve been building up a library stock of dozens and dozens of individual aged sakes to create the blend from.

“IWA 5 Reserves does everything that IWA 5 does in terms of balance, flow and complexity, but it has more depth, gravitas, precision and verticality. I presented it to 30 chef de caves recently and they were stunned by it,” Geoffroy said.

So far, less than 1,000 1.8 litre bottles of IWA 5 Reserves have been made, but Geoffroy intends to ramp up production.

Crazy project

“We’ve had so much success with Reserves in Asia that I want to hold more and more blending elements back each year. At the moment I can’t make much, but I want to raise production. It’s a crazy project, even I think I’m nuts,” Geoffroy told db.

In addition to the UK, the sake will be released in other key markets around the world by the end of the year.

As to whether there are plans to add a more entry-level expression to the IWA range, Geoffroy has his sights firmly fixed on the luxury market.

“We’ll let others work on the entry-level sakes – we’re comfortable with our positioning and have no valid reason to do an entry-level expression,” he said.

According to Geoffroy, sake is harder to make than Champagne. “I’m a technician and I’ve been a scientist, and there’s way more microbiology involved in sake making. You need a very high level of experience to make sake as it’s a confounding beverage,” he told db.

“Making wine is quite a natural process, as the sugars in the grapes can be readily fermented and the yeast is carried on the bloom of the berries, whereas in sake the starches have to be inverted into sugars and you have to ferment the yeast to levels that would be toxic in wine.

“Saying that, there are many similarities between sake and Champagne. It all comes down to balance, and getting back to the fundamentals of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Both share a seamless flow of sensations,” he added.



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