The art of pairing by a Japanese sommelier

03 Nov 2017 in Food Culture

How can you pair wine and sake with Japanese food? Get insights from a professional sommelier!


Dine at the restaurant of HOSHINOYA Tokyo, and you’ll probably be served by Ayano Kawase, an expert sommelière with a talent for selecting surprising and seductive pairings.

How to serve sake

How did you become a sommelier?

My first job was working in a sushi restaurant in Hokkaido. At the time, I hardly drank alcohol at all! But serving sake was a big part of my job, so I started studying it and was soon hooked!

Japanese sake in a glass

Sake beverage

I became a certified Sake Sommelier before moving to HOSHINOYA Kyoto and Yukawatan, the restaurant of Hotel Bleston Court, where I really got to know wine and qualified as a Wine Sommelier.

How do you work with chef Hamada at HOSHINOYA Tokyo?

Chef Hamada tends to decide on his menus at the last minute, which makes it more challenging!

Noriyuki Hamada

Delicacy food dish

At some point before dinner, he’ll ask me to come to the kitchen and sample the menu. Then I choose the wine and sake from our cellar.

How do you decide when to use wine and when to use sake?

Just like the chef, I try to create a rhythm through the meal by thinking about the flow of tastes.

Japanese dainties

Fish filet

I prefer not to use sake when it’s the obvious choice, such as for sashimi, but to create something new and unexpected.

What are your favourite wine regions?

I’m a fan of Burgundy and Champagne. At HOSHINOYA Tokyo, we focus mainly on French wine, but we also serve Japanese wines. There are now some excellent Japanese reds and the whites are improving fast.

Japanese sommelier

New wineries are opening up all over, with Nagano and Hokkaido among the top Prefectures. So, I’m constantly trying out new wines to find new combinations!



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