While wine and cheese has been cemented as the pairing of food and beverage, there is a new entrant into the scene that can’t be ignored: sake.

At a special tasting seminar on sake and cheese at Le Cordon Bleu Tokyo this winter, some 60 culinary and sake-enthusiasts (re)discovered sake as a pairing powerhouse.

The Hiroshima Sake Seminar put nine varieties of sake from the prefecture in southwestern Japan together with a selection of well-known cheeses. Participants tasted and paired while learning about the rice liquor’s extensive history and production methods from a sake expert.

Incredible and Versatile Sake

While sake (or nihonshu) has long been associated with Japanese cuisine, the biggest lesson from the seminar is that it is highly compatible with non-Japanese dishes due to its unique flavour, dryness and aroma. In the classroom, participants discovered how changes to the many factors in the brewing process, such as the types of rice used and the addition of alcohol, create different sake variations and lend it its amazing versatility.

The nihonshu in the seminar were served in wine glasses, an increasingly popular vessel for its ability to capture aroma, and kikichoko, a special cup for tasting, to fully explore the flavor profiles of each sake. Participants took a sip of the sake, tasted cheeses suggested by the lecturer and a Le Cordon Bleu chef, and let their palettes do the rest.

Professional Courses, Good Fun

After the two-hour seminar, everyone left with a happy belly, flushed cheeks and a new-found appreciation for the iconic beverage.

Le Cordon Bleu runs sake courses and events in its Tokyo campus throughout the year. They also offer other washoku-centric classes such as wagashi(Japanese confections) and a full diploma program exclusively on Japanese cuisine, all in English.

Learn more here.