On that same day, an exporter based in Tokyo called The Taste of Sake offered for sale exactly 78 sakes, no more no less, from the same 78 producers. It sells 78 sakes, all sakes rated by the Wine Advocate and ONLY sakes rated by the Wine Advocate.
The Financial Times has already written about the Wine Advocate sake ratings and the rush for the top-rated sakes they engendered (the article mistakenly attributes the ratings to Robert Parker, but they were done by Wine Advocate critic Liwen Hao.)
The top-rated sake, given 98 points by the Advocate, was offered by The Taste of Sake for $160 a bottle on the day the ratings were released (it previously sold for $45 from the brewery). Within a week, that price was up to $5000 a bottle.
So clearly somebody hopes to profit from the Wine Advocate's sake ratings. But how did we get here?
Here's what I know:
The Taste of Sake is a corporation licensed on June 6 of this year in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. It registered its website on July 1 of this year.
|The Taste of Sake's product list, first page|
On Aug. 31, the day the Wine Advocate ratings were released, The Taste of Sake offered for sale all 78 sakes that received 90 points or more.
The Taste of Sake did not offer any sakes for sale, not one, that did not get a Wine Advocate rating.
The Wine Advocate did not give a review of more than one sake from any producer, even though most producers make several (or many) different bottlings. The Taste of Sake did not offer for sale more than one sake from any producer, though most exporters and merchants offer multiple different sakes from the same producer.
The Taste of Sake says on its website, "We ship worldwide. Inquiries from distributors are welcome."
Many of the prices quoted by The Taste of Sake in English were significantly higher on Aug. 31, the day of the ratings' release, than those listed for the sakes on websites in Japanese.
|Yep, that's $5000 for the top-rated sake|
I sent an email to The Taste of Sake asking how they got access to so many great sakes, and if The Taste of Sake has any connection to the Wine Advocate. In it, I said I was a consumer interested in buying the top-rated sake. The response from The Taste of Sake president Hirokazu Yoshida included this line: "Actually we are a wine importer Le Caveau Inc. in Japan and working on Parker high rated wines, and recently started to export sake." Less than two hours later, without any additional email from me in the interim, I got another email from Yoshida that included this line: "We have no relation to the Wine Advocate."
I sent an email to a sake producer, Daishichi, which has a sake on the list. The company President responded that he does not have any dealings with The Taste of Sake.
Here's what I don't know:
I don't know how The Taste of Sake got worldwide export rights for sakes from 78 producers, many of which already have import agreements in the U.S. But The Taste of Sake president Yoshida told me, "We, of course, have the rights to export the sakes on our list but the import rules vary from country to country."
I don't know how any exporter could wrangle for export 78 sakes from 78 producers in less than a single day. I noticed The Taste of Sake within an hour of the Wine Advocate's ratings being posted. I don't know how, even if The Taste of Sake bought the sakes retail with the intention of reselling them, that could have been accomplished in under an hour.
Through a PR agency that works with the Wine Advocate, I asked Wine Advocate Editor in Chief Lisa Perrotti-Brown for an interview about the sake ratings. She did not agree to an interview. I later sent an email to the Wine Advocate reading, "A single company in Japan, The Taste of Sake, sells for export all 78 of the sakes given 90 points or more by the Wine Advocate and had all of them listed for sale the same day the Wine Advocate's ratings were released. Do you have any idea how The Taste of Sake could have gathered these sakes? Does The Taste of Sake have some connection with the Wine Advocate? Or is it possible that The Taste of Sake got access to the Wine Advocate's ratings ahead of time?" I have received no response.
It's a curious situation. I do know where you can buy the 78 sakes rated 90 points or higher by the Wine Advocate. But I don't know how that happened.