One of the delights with travelling with a Japanese airline is sampling the island nation's food and drink (not to mention meticulous hospitality) while you soar above the clouds.
For us, that includes taking a cup or two of sake and exploring different brands, blends and flavours of rice wine – and this is where ANA's latest sake menu comes into play.
Working with renowned sake sommelier Yasuyuki Kitahara – winner of the 4th World Sake Sommelier Competition, and manager of the Conrad Tokyo’s Cerise and Collage restaurants – ANA has broadened its offering to 46 sakes served on domestic and international flights, as well as in lounges, with the aim of appealing to avid sake lovers as well as those who are less familiar with the sharply potent rice-based spirit.
The selection process began with 319 varieties of Japanese sake, which were evaluated not only for their taste but how well they paired with ANA's inflight cuisine, as well as seasonal appeal – from summer-themed refreshing and fruity flavours to robust sakes ideally suited to the colder months.
Each sake was also tasted twice – once in the morning and once in the afternoon – to determine its appeal at different times of the day.
As the sakes served on ANA flights and lounges will change throughout the year and also vary between routes, regular travellers can enjoy several opportunities to broaden their sake palate.
"Like all aspects of ANA hospitality, we focused on delivering the best possible experience to our passengers throughout the selection process, and we believe this effort is evident in our updated menu," says ANA Executive Vice President Hideki Kunugi.
"It is our sincere hope that passengers will gain a greater appreciation of sake and its important role in Japanese cuisine through the menu we have prepared."
The Star Alliance member – which begins double-daily flights between Sydney and Haneda on 29 March, 2020, and is also Virgin Australia's newest partner – will launch its 2020-2021 sake collection in March 2020.
Some highlights and tasting notes from ANA's 2020-2021 sake selection include:
Kokuryu Daiginjo Ryu (first class, from March 2020): Kokuryu Sake Brewing Corporation was established in 1804, and has long pursued the creation of the finest, most refined sake. Its Daiginjo is matured at a low temperature to apply the latest wine maturing technology, resulting in a taste that is mild and soft with a refreshing aroma of apples and tropical fruits.
Kamoshibito Kuheiji Junmai Daiginjo Betsuatsurae (first class, across April-May 2020): The sake brewery Banjo Jozo was established in 1646 and its Kamoshibito Kuheiji line is derived from the name 'Kuheiji' which family heads hand down to each generation. Boasting a fragrance of ripe fruits such as melon and lychee, sweet and bitter flavors spread in the mouth but leave an elegant acid after taste. By using up to 35% polished rice the sake has a delicate and rich profile.
Junmai Daiginjo Chokaisan (domestic premium class, December 2020 through to February 2021): The subterranean steam water from the ten thousand snow of beautiful Mountain Chokai is used for the brewing water. The characteristic of this sake is the flowing taste with gorgeous fragrance of pear and green apple.
Sawanoi Tokyokurabito (ANA Suite Lounge, June 2020 through to September 2020): Tokyo's Ozawa Shuzo has a history that goes back over 300 years. The brewery is surrounded by nature and has views of mountains and the scenic Tamagawa river.Ozawa Shuzo uses pure Iwashimizu water from a cave located in the Chichibu Paleozoic layer below 140 meters of bedrock. Junmai Ginjo sake is created using the “Kimoto Zukuri” technique, the original method of sake brewing. The sake has a smooth taste due to its moderate acid that highlights its flavour.