Iwa Sake
Photo: Iwa Sake

Former chief winemaker of Dom Perignon creates a sake with champagne blending techniques

IWA 5 heralds in a new era in sake brewing in Japan

By Jessica Thompson
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When Richard Geoffroy left Moët & Chandon in 2018 – where he was the legendary chef de cave (cellarmaster) of Dom Perignon for 28 years – the industry kept a close watch on his next move.

It was Japan – and specifically, sake – that wooed him, after countless trips over several decades stoked his love for the country and its culture. In 2018, he set up a brewery in Tateyama, Toyama Prefecture, a region Geoffroy favoured for its natural beauty and rich sake history. Tateyama is famed for its heavy snowfall, which is ideal for brewing sake, as well as the abundance of pristine water filtered through the nearby Japanese Alps.  

After two years in the making, Geoffrey finally revealed his maiden creation: the IWA 5 sake. IWA 5 is different from other sake on the market, and not just because it’s brewed at the hand of a foreigner – although this is rare, due to the difficulty of acquiring a sake-brewing license. Rather than following the traditional method, Geoffroy incorporates the blending skills he has perfected during his time overseeing Dom Perignon’s distinctive blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. While sake is most commonly made from one rice variety and one yeast strain, IWA 5 is composed from a blend of three different rice varieties – Yamada Nishiki, Omachi, Gohyakumanoku – and five different yeast strains. 

The result, according to the label, is a sake with notes of plum, almond, butter and orange. It’s touted to be ‘perfectly balanced, weightless yet profound, intense and persistent’.

Just like its combination of rice and yeasts, IWA 5 also brings together several creative masterminds. Australian Marc Newson designed the slick black bottle while the illustrious Japanese architect Kengo Kuma designed the elegant and contemporary brewery building, which will be completed by spring 2021.

Richard Geoffroy’s departure from Dom Perignon was seen by some as the end of an era in Champagne. However, it’s now heralded by others as the dawn of a new era for sake. At ¥13,000 a bottle, IWA 5 is not cheap – but then again, it’s still cheaper than a bottle of Dom Perignon.  

IWA 5 is now available for purchase online.

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