Why French Winemaker Richard Geoffroy Swapped Champagne For Sake In Japan

Posted: Feb 02, 2021

When did you go into winemaking?

“The magnet of my roots – the land, the farming, the grapes, the wine, the family – drew me back to winemaking. Instead of going to the family estate, in 1984, I started off at Moët et Chandon and new world sparkling wines in California and Australia, where I learned the basics of winemaking, and then returned to Champagne. I like to say, ‘the origin is the destination’, which is possibly the motto of my life.
“I was at Moët et Chandon from 1984 to 1990, and then I was offered the position of chef de cave at Dom Pérignon in 1990. When I look back, I realise things were clicking together pretty rapidly for me to be called chef de cave for Dom Pérignon after six years’ experience of new world winemaking.”

Was sake something you thought about making early on?

“No, because my brain and my mind were so busy with Dom Pérignon there was no space for anything else. I didn’t discover sake until the late 1990s. I was so focused on getting things right with Dom Pérignon there was no space for even my family. I became more interested in sake over the past 10 years and have been very serious about it for five years.”

How did IWA come about?

“Sake as a beverage is 1,000 years old and is rather conservative. I couldn’t make it myself so it has been a patient scheme of collecting the right expertise, talent and will. IWA was not an existing brewery, it is a start-up. We have had to do everything from purchasing the rice fields, purchasing the rice, building the kura, or brewery, in the middle of the rice paddy fields, building the team, the brand, the distribution, and being part of the community, the town, the farmers, the artisans – we’ve done all of this in just a few years.

“The kura is not yet operational so we are brewing the sake at my partner’s place, in Toyama. The project would not have been possible without Ryuichiro Masuda-san, who is the ultimate facilitator in opening doors, giving insight into Japan and into the brewing industry. Masuda-san is a very progressive man within the industry, well travelled and a wine lover.”

By Bernice Chan
Source and complete article by: scmp.com

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