IWC Announces 2022 Sake Champions

On the 7th July in London, the International Wine Challenge (IWC) announced its three sake award winners, including IWC 2022 Champion Sake, this year’s overall winner.

The 16th IWC sake judging is the most extensive competition of its type in the world and judging took place over four days in April at the Kia Oval in London. This year, despite remaining travel restrictions in some countries, the world’s most respected 53 sake experts flew in from 14 countries to judge 1,732 sake entries, which is the largest IWC sake competition held since it started in 2007.

The IWC sake competition has nine categories; Futsu-shu, Honjozon, Ginjo, Daiginjo, Junmai, Junmai Ginjo, Junmai Daiginjo, Koshu and Sparkling sake. The shortlists for the three awards were announced in May, and the winners were revealed during the IWC Awards Dinner at The Hurlingham Club attended by sake maker finalists, judges, their guests and world media. Eleven sake makers flew from Japan despite difficult Covid restrictions in Japan.

The results of three IWC Sake Awards, the IWC Champion Sake, the IWC Champion Great Value Sake, and the Sake Brewer of the year were as follows:

⭐️ IWC Champion Sake 2022

Sponsored by Japan Airlines (JAL), the IWC Champion Sake 2022 Award, which is regarded the most influential award, known as ‘The Oscar’ of the sake industry went to

Sawahime Ginjo by Inoue Seikichi Co Ltd from Tochigi prefecture.

This is the second championship victory for Inoue Seikichi brewery since it won the title in 2010. Sawahime Ginjo was a strong winner in the hardest competition in IWC sake history beating off 1,731 contenders. This champion sake has a classic ginjo aroma of bananas and fresh fruits, well balanced with a light mouthfeel with a crisp and refreshing aftertaste. Mr Hiroshi Inoue, the 5th generation owner of the 154 year-old sake brewery from Utsunomiya City in Tochigi prefecture is also a highly qualified master of brewer and received the champion trophy in person in front of the media and well-wishers.

The IWC Trophies 2022 – The shortlisted finalists for the Champion sake were;

  • Futsu-shu Trophy winner

Komachisakura by Watanabe Shuzoten Co Ltd. (Gifu prefecture)

  • Honjozo Trophy winner

Atagonomatsu Betsushikomi Honjozo by Niizawa Sake Brewery Co Ltd

(Miyagi prefecture)

  • Junmai Trophy winner

Gunmaizumi Maikaze by Shimaoka Shuzo Co Ltd (Gunma prefecture)

  • Daiginjo Trophy winner

Dewazakura Daiginjo by Dewazakura Sake Brewery Co Ltd (Yamagata prefecture)

  • Junmai Ginjo Trophy winner

Isojiman Junmai Ginjo by Isojiman Premium Sake-Brewing Co Ltd

(Shizuoka prefecture)

  • Junmai Daiginjo Trophy winner

Hatsukame Junmai Daiginjo Kame by Hatsukame Sake Brewery Co Ltd

(Shizuoka prefecture)

  • Koshu Trophy winner

Masuizumi Barrel Aging Kijoshu by Masuda Sake Company Ltd (Toyama prefecture)

  • Sparkling Sake Trophy winner

Yonetsuru Sparkling Rose by Yonetsuru Shuzo Co ltd (Yamagata prefecture)

⭐️ The Champion Great Value Sake 2022

This award, sponsored by the Sake Samurai Association (the Chairman Mr. Kazuhiro Maegaki) goes to the best quality sake available at the most reasonable price. To qualify for a Great Value Award, entries must receive a Gold or Silver medal at the competition, have a minimum production volume of 10,000 bottles and be available nationwide for less than 1,000 Yen (approximately £6) for 720 ml. This year, the champion Great Value Sake Award was won by Atagonomatsu Betsushikomi Honjozo by Niizawa Sake Brewery from Miyagi prefecture, and it also won the Trophy in the Honjozo sake category.  This sake presents a fruity aroma of bananas and citrus fruits with a polishing ratio of 60%. The body is light, and aftertaste is very clean and refreshing. The award was received by Mr Iwao Niizawa, the owner of the brewery.

⭐️ IWC Sake Brewer of the Year 2022

Finally, the highly coveted IWC Sake Brewer of the Year award, which is the sake equivalent of the Winemaker of the Year award and is awarded to the brewer with the highest consistency of results across their entries, went to: Niizawa Sake Brewery Co. Ltd from Miyagi Prefecture.

Niizawa Sake Brewery in Miyagi is known as the leading sake maker in the sake industry. The brewery was destroyed completely by the Tohoku Tsunami disaster in 2011 and Mr Niizawa and his team rebuilt a brewery in a new area outside the original town. The Niizawa Sake Brewery is hugely innovative in its approach and is challenging the industry norms with the appointment of the youngest female Toji (brewmaster) at the age of 22. This year Niizawa Sake Brewery was awarded Champion Great Value Sake, two Trophies, four Gold medals, five Silver, three Bronze, and three Commended Awards. An incredible achievement and a worthy winner.