French sake might have been an oxymoron in the recent past, but for those familiar with the concept of terroir, the two words (i.e., “French” and “sake”) constitute a harmonious whole. Terroir is that wonderful term for the influence that local conditions have on a wine. Wiktionary defines it thus: “The complete set of local conditions in which a particular wine or family of wines is produced, including soil type, weather conditions, topography and wine-making savoir-faire.” The reader can see how this concept can be applied to beverages other than wine and the utility of doing so. Thanks to the efforts of the terroirists whose hackles were raised by such abominations as California Chablis and Japanese Port, geographical appropriations of that sort are far less common today.
The brewery that makes Wakaze was opened in 2019 and is located in the suburbs of Paris. It is as French as French fries…no, scratch that. It as French as Freedom fries…no scratch that, too. It is as French as the Eiffel Tower. The producers use French rice (Camargue rice), French water, organic yeast, and koji. Their website states the following: “Inspired by France, we believe in only using local and natural products.”1 Our assessment of this interesting product appears below.
Wakaze is very pale lemon in color, dry, with medium (+) acidity, a somewhat short finish with a bit of bitterness or sourness towards the end. It has an abv of 13%. None of this is remarkable of course, but what follows is. The most impressive aspect of this sake is the similarity it bears to Chardonnay, especially the steely type that emerges from Chablis. Perhaps this is not surprising as there is a Bourgogne connection here. The sign at Tokyu Department Store, where we bought it, states that yeast normally used for white Burgundy is used to make it. If other tasters share our perception, it means that this sake shouts at stentorian decibel levels “TERROIR!” And the possibilities are endless.