Fukushima Pref. brings home sake contest haul（県産酒、震災後最多33点入賞 全国新酒鑑評会）
The National Research Institute of Brewing has announced the winners of its annual sake contest, in which 33 products from Fukushima Prefecture earned awards. The tally marks the largest number for the prefecture since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
In the contest, sake products manufactured in the 2019 brewing year -- July 2019 to June 2020 -- were screened by the institute, which is based in Higashi-Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture.
By prefecture, Fukushima tied with Nagano Prefecture for second place after Niigata Prefecture, from which 39 sake products were awarded. This year, gold prize winners were not selected, as the final screening was canceled due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
Fukushima Prefecture is home to the largest number of gold prize winners for seven consecutive years from the 2012 to 2018 brewing years. Although the prefecture has to wait until the next contest to renew its record, this year's contest highlighted a high level of brewing techniques in the prefecture.
The contest had 850 entries from across Japan, of which 433 were awarded. Hyogo Prefecture ranked fourth with 24 prizewinning products, followed by Akita with 21.
The characteristics of rice, a raw material that affects the quality of sake, and temperature control, among other factors, differ from year to year. However, brewers in Fukushima Prefecture received guidance from the Aizu-Wakamatsu Technical Support Center and acquired new technical knowhow to deal with various circumstances flexibly.
When Typhoon No. 19 hit eastern Japan in October last year, some breweries and factories in Koriyama, where rice used for sake is polished, were flooded. In addition, numerous events such as welcome and farewell parties have been canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic, and shipments of sake products have plummeted. Despite these difficulties, Fukushima brewers were able to deliver some bright news to residents of the prefecture.
The institute selected the winners at a preliminary screening in April, in which judges were limited to its employees. Initially, it had planned to choose a gold prize winner among products that passed the preliminary screening. However, as Hiroshima Prefecture, where the final screening was supposed to be held, had requested that people not move between prefectures following the declaration of a national state of emergency, the institute canceled the final screening as it was difficult for judges to convene.
According to the institute, the annual sake contest started in 1911 with the aim of improving the quality and production technology of sake. It was canceled in 1945 when World War II ended, as well as in 1995 following the Great Hanshin Earthquake. This is the first time that only a final screening was not held.
Tasting brings joy
An event to taste sake products that have earned awards in the national sake contest began at the Fukushima Product Promotion Center in Fukushima City on May 22. Visiting sake lovers tasted brews from the prefecture, which is renowned for its sake production.
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the number of participants in the event is being limited to about 10. Holding a sake cup, a participating woman said with a smile, "It's delicious with a deep and rich taste."
（ Translated by The Japan News ）
【 ２０２０年５月２３日付・福島民友新聞掲載 】
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