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Taiwan sake boom starts to challenge Japanese traditions

Local producers face quality hurdles in the premium market

As sake gains popularity in Taiwan, more people are discovering its versatility when paired with food. (Courtesy of the Wufeng Farmers' Association Winery)  

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Until recently, guests at Ya Ge, a Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Taipei, mostly paired their food with European or Australian wines. Those desiring a stronger kick would go for Taiwanese-style wines like the white Kaoliang or the yellow Shaoxing.

In the last few years, though, requests for Japanese sake have risen sharply. Today, diners at Ya Ge often pair their Chinese dim sum with top-quality daiginjo or junmai sake from premium Japanese brands such as Kokuryu and Shimizu Seizaburo Shoten, according to Sam Yeh, the Mandarin Oriental hotel's former head sommelier.

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