Entries are now being accepted for the Sake Sommelier of the Year competition, organised by the Academy of Food and Wine Service (AFWS), and the Sake Sommeliers' Association (SSA).
Prospective candidates must submit a written test, with the successful entrants going through to the semi-final and final, to be held in London on 24 November at the London Westbury hotel.
The prize is a five-day, paid-for trip to Japan, including the chance to visit sake breweries and take the SSA's Advance Sake Sommelier Course. Entries must be submitted by 22 September, with more information on applying available on the AFWS website [www.afws.co.uk/events] or the Sake Sommelier of the Year website. [http://www.sakesommelieroftheyear.com/] .
The written test comprises a questionnaire and two essay-style questions designed to test candidates' knowledge and experience of sake, while the subsequent stages include blind tastings and food matching tests.
Last year's eventual winner of the Sake Sommelier of the Year title was Rajan Rengasamy from Spinneys in the United Arab Emirates. Barry McCaughley of Chotto Matte in London came second, while Sam Tse from the Hong Kong Wine Academy was third.
Master sake sommelier Xavier Chapelou, one of the chief judges of the competition, explained that sake is no longer simply a Japanese delicacy.
He said: "Sake knowledge is becoming increasingly important as sake is no longer only served in Japanese restaurants but also in many top end non-Japanese restaurants. It is a growing trend amongst consumers who are on the lookout for the next big thing in luxury experiences."
Manager of the Sake Sommelier Association, Ryota Kishi, added that "interest in sake is increasing, as Japanese food grows in popularity."
He said that sakes were like wines, in the sense that temperature, fermentation process, and original source (rice rather than grapes) used can alter the final products, and have a knock-on effect on the foods that go with them.