Is sake the new sauvignon blanc?

Sauvignon blanc or sake? Is that the question you'll be asked next time you order a drink?

Although not a personal favorite, sauvignon blanc seems to be the drink of choice for many when wine is on the list. It's seen as an easy no brainer, a wine that suits most palates and goes with most anything. I've been in chain store bottle shops where the rows of sav blanc have outnumbered all other whites by three to one.

However Sake Master Toshi Maeda believes it won't be long before sake is offered with as much availability and enthusiasm as overdone sauvignon blanc.

"There are sake bars opening everywhere," he says.

And indeed, he was in Brisbane for the opening of a new Sake bar at the newly renovated Wagamama in the Wintergarden, CBD.

Toshi, who hails from Melbourne, obviously has a deep love for sake and a vested interest in its success. Originally from Kobe, Japan, Toshi arrived in Australia in 1996 to stay for a year and study English. Australia got under his skin and 10 years later he's still in Melbourne, now the owner of the famed Japanese Izakaya style restaurant, Maedaya.

Toshi strongly believes that the quality, variety and complexity of Japanese sake is almost equal or even greater than Western wine.  He is determined to help Australian people enjoy sake in a similar way to wine and takes his role as a Sake Master very seriously.

Are you thinking about your last sake experience (probably many years ago) and shaking your head doubtfully?

Well sake has changed.  The word is that much of the sake that hit Australian shores in the early days, up to 30 years ago, was very low grade stuff dumped on an unsuspecting audience.  Now there's a big surprise - I mean the idea of dumping low quality product on our shores is hardly unique to sake, it it?

Anyway the scene is new and it's time to give sake a try.

The new look Wagamama in the Wintergarden is sleek and contemporary with long, shared wooden benches along side cosy booths.  Modelled on traditional ramen noddle bars popular in Japan for decades, wagamama offers a fusion of Japanese-inspired dishes.

Here's the sake we tried -

Kizakura Hoshinonagare Sparkling Junmai - naturally carbonated and slightly clouded pure sparkling sake made from rice with a hint of grapefruit and a bit of yogurt.  Served chilled. Toshi described this as a new style of sake similar to champagne.

Asabiraki Namburyu Densho Zukuri Daiginjo - beautiful and fragrant, super premium Daiginjo sake with a dry, crisp finish. Brewed by Japan's largest sake brewing guild, Nambu Toji, at a very low temperature. I liked the green apple and melon notes and the creamy after taste.

Tateyama Junmai Ginjo - clean, smooth and fruity premium Junmai Ginjo sake from Toyama's most famous sake brewer Tateyama. Beautiful nashi/apple fragrance with slightly dry finish. One to pair with seafood.

Rikaku Junmai - clean and very complex flavoured premium junmai sake from Shimiane's legendary sake brewer Rihaku. Quiet fragrance and sweet smokey flavour of roasted chestnuts and bitterness of cacao. Best at room temperature.

Kizakura Yamahai Jikomi - traditional long term fermented sake which is smooth, rich and semi dry from Kyoto, Japan. Serve warmed around 40-45C.

Choya Umeshu with Ume plum fruit - 100 per cent ume fruit liquor (Japanese plum/apricot) from Osaka, Japan.  Serve this one after the meal or used as a cocktail base. This is a sweet sake I could really get to like.

Want to know more about sake -