sakura awards

Judging at Sakura Awards amid Covid (pic: Sakura” Japan Women’s Wine Awards)

The winners for Japan's biggest wine competition, Sakura Awards, are announced. Despite Covid, the competition received the highest number of entries.

Sakura, or cherry blossoms, were in full bloom in Tokyo at the end of March. The beautiful flower in pale pink color are a symbol of spring. There’s also a long-running competition in Japan named after the famous cherry blossom. It is a unique competition because all the judges are female wine experts.

“SAKURA” Japan Women’s Wine Awards (referred to as “the Sakura Awards” ) started in 2014 and has been held once a year. The 8th judging was organized this February and the results were announced on March 8, on the International Women’s Day.

President of this competition is Ms. Yumi Tanabe, a leading wine educator in Japan. According to Ms. Tanabe, the Sakura Awards have three goals: finding wine suitable for home-cooked meals, increasing wine consumption, and expanding and supporting women working in the wine industry.

Ms. Yumi Tanabe, president of “Sakura” Japan Women’s Wine Awards. (Pic: Sakura Awards)
Ms. Yumi Tanabe, president of “Sakura” Japan Women’s Wine Awards. (Pic: Sakura Awards)

Why was this unique competition started? A research by Japan’s drinks giant Asahi Group holdings based on survey results of 805 female consumers and male consumers in 2014 showed that 34% of women replied that they drink wine more than one time a week, while 27% for men. Women drink wine more frequently than men. 

Based on these data, “the Sakura Awards” considers that “Women set a trend for the wine industry in Japan”. If women choose the wines which are suitable for their dishes by their own taste, this will lead to the expansion of wine consumption in Japan. At the same time, the results of the competition will promote the active role of women in the wine industry in Japan.

All judges are female wine specialists such as sommeliers, winemakers, wine school educators, journalists, restaurant and beverage directors, retail store buyers, importers and distributors. They come from all over the country.

The number of entries were 1,922 in the first edition in 2014; and the number has continued to increase year by year and exceeded over 4,000 in 2017. Now, the Sakura Awards are the largest wine competition in Asia. 

sakura wine
The 2020 Sakura Awards had a record number of entries despite Covid-19 (pic: Sakura” Japan Women’s Wine Awards)

The awarded wines can put the medal logo sticker on the bottle. Also, many support tools for sales promotion can be obtained from the website of the Sakura Awards.

The judging this year was held amid Covid-19.However, the number of entry wines hit a record high of 4,562 from 32 countries. Among those, the number of Japanese wines also hit the highest record of 360.

Up to the previous year, the judgement session was held in Tokyo for two consecutive days; however, this year, in order to avoid a  long-distance journey to present the spread of Covid-19, a judgment in Tokyo was held on February 8 and another one in Osaka on February 16, the western part of Japan. Furthermore, last year, in total 560 judges participated; this year, the number of judges was reduced to 186 for social distancing purposes. Various other countermeasures were also taken to realize the judgement this year.

As a result of judging, 275 wines were awarded “Double Gold”, 1,074  were awarded “Gold”, 882 were awarded “Silver”, and a total of 2,231 items were honored with awards.

The Diamond Trophy wines which were selected from “Double Gold” wines given to 58 wines.

In addition to the above medals, the Sakura Awards presents various other prizes such as “Best Woman Winemaker”, “Best Cost Performance Wine ”,” Great Value Sparkling Wine”, “Lesser-known Grape Varieties in Japanese market” or “Best Wine for Asian Foods

(Sushi, Tempura, Sukiyaki, Yakitori, Teppanyaki, Japanese Pot-Au-Feu, Korean, Chinese and Thai)”. 

For the “Best Woman Winemaker” in 2021, Ms. Saskia Goetschy of Château Boucarut (vallée du Rhône, France) was given the prestigious award. 

The full list of awards and recipients can be viewed here

The entry for the 9th “Sakura” Japan Women’s Wine Awards will be accepted from Oct 1 to Nov. 30, 2021. The judging  is scheduled on Feb.8, 2022 in Tokyo and on Feb. 15, 2022 in Osaka.

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