Ki's Michael Tremblay to judge sakes at the International Wine Challenge in London, England.

It's a tough job to taste 800 sakes, but someone's got to do it.

To the average drinker, a flight of eight sakes in one sitting would already be a serious tasting. So, imagine having to judge over 800 sakes over two days. This is exactly what the 48 judges, the best sake experts in the world, have in store for them at the 32nd International Wine Challenge in London, England.

At this esteemed event and one of the most meticulously judged wine competitions in the world, Michael Tremblay of Ki Modern Japanese + Bar will be the only Canadian judge on the panel to judge the submissions, based on their faithfulness to style, quality and balance.

“The sakes are purely assessed without the judges knowing what they are, purely on their expression of grade and style, in addition to their balance and quality. Not knowing who the brewery is means you start each assessment with a blank slate and let what is in the glass speak for itself,” says Tremblay.

As Ontario’s first certified Advanced Sake Professional and current vice president of education and knowledge for the Sake Institute of Ontario, who recently completed his sake instructor assessment for the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, Tremblay brings his robust set of skills and experience to Ki Modern Japanese + Bar as its national sake sommelier, where he curates for one of Canada’s most extensive sake lists.

In choosing sakes for Ki--comprised of more than 60 sake from some of the most prominent sakagura in Japan and the rest of the world--Tremblay considers what is already on the list, and then to balance the list, trying to represent as many different regions as possible while providing as many styles and grades as he can source.  

“I try to find sakes that are delicious but that come with a story,” says Tremblay. “Our guests love to hear about the fascinating world of sake, and if the brewery or brand comes with some interesting facts, it is much more fun for both our staff of sake professionals and guests alike.”

For those new to sake, choosing one from the extensive list could be daunting. Tremblay recommends a Junmai Ginjo, because its fruity attributes can be more approachable.  

“If you like your sake warm, look out for a Junmai sake, where the rice will come through a little more; and if you like sweeter types of beverages, perhaps a sparkling or fruit-infused sake is the right sake to start with,” advises Tremblay. “The great thing about sake is that there is something for everyone.”

You may not be able to taste 800 sakes, and you probably don’t want to, but you can be sure that Tremblay will be taking a lot of notes for what to add onto Ki’s menu.