About The Sake Sommelier Association
Education with Passion
Sake Sommelier Association is ‘the’ authority for Sake in Europe. We strive to promote global education, awareness and appreciation of Japanese Sake, to increase opportunities for students to learn the rich cultural history of Sake and also to advance demand and consumption on a global scale.
Offering the only Sake Sommelier qualification in the UK, The Sake Sommelier Association is conducted by Sake specialists Kumiko Ohta , Xavier Chapelou and François Lavergne.
Xavier Chapelou is recognised as one of the world’s leading non-Japanese sake experts. He is referred to as the ‘Sake Doctor’ or ‘The sake man’ within the UK sake industry. He has lived in the UK since 1992. Xavier is one of the pioneers of bringing Japanese premium sake onto the UK market. He has a comprehensive background in wine and sake, developed through his experience in both retail and fine restaurant consultancy and management.
Xavier has worked as a sommelier at China Tang in the Dorchester for over five years, holding prime responsibility for all Japanese sake and Chinese beverages as well as wine. In 2009, he was awarded recognition for his outstanding contributions to the restaurant scene at the ‘Taste Sommelier Awards’.
In 2004 Xavier became the first non-Japanese certified sake sommelier, by passing the Kikisake-shi course with the SSI in Japan. In 2005, he took part as a panellist alongside Heston Blumenthal for the ‘New Frontiers of Taste’ Forum at the Cheltenham Science Festival, and in 2007 was a panellist at the ‘Umami Symposium’ in Warsaw. He is one of the founder members of the Sake Sommelier Association and has been one of the first Sake judges at the International Wine Challenge.
In 2013, Xavier was nominated for "Educator of the Year" by the prestigious drinks magazine Imbibe.
Kumiko Ohta grew up in Japan, surrounded by rice fields and Sake-brewing culture. She has since relocated to England where she jointly set-up a Sake importing company. Kumiko is an authorised lecturer in Sake, holding the Higher Certificate in Sake, as well as the Kikisakeshi (Sake Sommelier Qualification).
She continues to put her palate to the test by judging in various regional and international sake competitions. She has appeared on television and radio, speaking about Sake in both Japan and Europe and most recently made a short film about Sake-brewing. She regularly holds Sake tastings for private and corporate entertainment and to increase understanding about Sake in the UK.
She received the prestigious “Woman of the year” award from Nikkei for her outstanding contribution to raising awareness about Sake. In 2006 she established the Sake Sommelier Association. She now currently develops her new project ‘The London sake challenge’ continuing her mission to spread the joys of sake.
François Lavergne’s love affair with sake began fewer than 20 years ago. A trained oenologist, he had been sent to Tokyo to open Cordon Bleu’s third international cooking school. It was there he fell in love with sake and all the Japanese culture.
It is in Japan then he became our Umami specialist having done the first Umami event in Tokyo with Tim Hanni (first American Master of Wine and Umami authority). When he was in Japan he also organized the first wine boom and French food weeks in Tokyo, following the success of this he travelled all of Asia with the same concept and become a real aficionado. Now back in Europe Francois moves between Paris and London where he works as international food and drink advisor.
Passionate with all fine drinks he even owns his Champagne house!
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