Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spring Sake! 春酒

Tonight Lesley Kehoe Galleries held the event 'The Art of the Vessel & Spring Sake Tasting' 「うつわの美 春酒」. I went with my mate, breathtaking calligrapher Shingo Nozao. We both find it near impossible to knock back the opportunity to sip fine sake teamed with even finer vessels. These sake sipping vessels are termed 'guinomi' in Japanese.

Trevor of Lesley Kehoe Galleries is a sake fanatic - this being unashamedly clear in 'Trevour's Sake Corner' each edition of the Kehoe Galleries newsletter.

The night started off with the usual mingling while viewing art works. The staff brought around sparkling sake and the most gorgeous oysters I've tasted in Melbourne for . . . ever, possibly. Seriously. You could just recognise a whisper of lemon, and paired with the sparkling sake, my senses were aroused and open to adore an army of guinomi sake cups.

Lesley greeted guests and educated with unbridled passion: The guinomi is heavily influenced by the tea bowls used in the Way of Tea. They are miniature versions of the great pieces used in the tearoom. And for this reason they raise the act of drinking sake to a sensual experience in the realm of high art and connoisseurship.

Lesley spilled out her infectious passion for experiencing vessels: When you drink from a tea bowl you turn the front of the bowl to the side as an expression of respect to the host and the vessel. As you turn the tea bowl you feel the texture of the clay and the application of the glaze on your palm. You feel the decisions of the craftsperson to shape the vessel. And you appreciate the unfolding of the 'keshiki' 'scenery' of the glaze, purposeful contours, and natural texture of the clay.

Seated and briefed: go forth and select your vessel for sake imbibing!

The full-house rose to choose the guinomi sake cup most in tune with their aesthetic whim of the day. I chose this Bizen piece. I am so predictable. Give me a an elegant expression of power with course-carved lines, and I'm a taker. This vessel's creator Kakerezaki Ryuichi:

Let's pause here and applaud Lesley Kehoe Galleries for allowing patrons to enjoy art works hands-on, and tonight, enjoying guinomi lips-on. Just last month at a tea ceremony for the tsunami relief at LKG, guests were also allowed to select an exquisite tea bowl from which to drink steaming matcha. This hands-on experience happens at exhibitions in Japan. Everyone benefits. Lesley Kehoe understands. Bravo!

As we enjoyed a further four varieties of sake paired thoughtfully with fine modern Japanese morsels, Trevor explained everything from the process of making sake, through the common 'banana' scent of sake using koji #9, to his thoughts behind teaming the varieties to the night's dishes.

Sake should be enjoyed soon after bottling, keeps for a short time (up to two weeks) in the fridge after opening, and the complex flavours of sake are best enjoyed un-warmed.

Here's the two I took a particular liking to:
Koshino Hatsu-Ume Sarara, a Niigata Junmai sake; and Hatsumago Koshu Sanzai, a Miyagi Junmai sake.

Thank you Lesley Kehoe Galleries for a thoroughly enjoyable night of education, taste, hands-on enjoyment of art, and the opportunity to meet like-minded people in Melbourne.

To end, here's a song I can't help but sing in my head when I've sipped a sake more than my very, very low limit: George Kamikawa and Noriko Tadano with 'Sake, sake, sake!'

Sake kure!

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