Japan’s most notable sommeliers

The culture of ‘omakase’, or recommendations, means Japanese sommeliers are a force to be reckoned with. Roddy Ropner explains.

Hiroyuki Seino, Apicius; Yoji Ikemoto, Vena; Sera Goto, CHOP, Photo: Enrique Balducci; Yasuhide Tobita, Nogizaka Shin; Ryo Sakai, Ardoak; Masaharu Hatayama, The Crescent, Photo: Photo Kansha; Tatsuya Ohyama, Cà Sento; Motohiro Okoshi, An Di; Yasushi Honda, FARO; FARO in Ginza is an Italian restaurant

While Japan is renowned for the quality of its restaurants, it is less well-known as the home of some of the most sophisticated wine lists and talented sommeliers in the world. In a country where wine culture is not yet fully established, sommeliers play a crucial role in promoting wine. By volume, more than a third of wine is sold through the on-trade, which equates to nearly two thirds of sales by value. Diners rely heavily upon the Japan Sommelier Association’s 7,000-plus professional members because the custom of ‘omakase’ – asking the chef for recommendations, which is common when ordering in Japanese restaurants – extends to wine.

Certain trends and themes are evident at leading restaurants, where ...

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