Philippine Wine Merchant and Okada Manila host first-ever “Sake Manila” party

Philippine Wine Merchant and Okada Manila host first-ever “Sake Manila” party

Slated on May 24 at the hotel’s grand ballroom, the dinner event brings together 200 brands of sakes and other drinks from 40 leading breweries and distillers from across Japan. A selection of some of the best and most authentic Japanese cuisine from Okada Manila’s culinary team will also be paired with these drinks.

(FROM LEFT) Cielo Ortega-Reboredo, Okada Manila’s VP for sales and marketing; Miaki Narita, Okada Manila’s associate director for corporate planning; Takako Okada, Okada Manila’s vice chairperson; Ralph Lim Joseph, Philippine Wine Merchant president; Raymond Lim Joseph, Philippine Wine Merchant director for sales and marketing

Are you ready for the first-ever gathering of sake brewers, brewery owners, sake masters, and brand ambassadors in Manila? Then mark the date as Philippine Wine Merchant (PWM) and Okada Manila host “Sake Manila” on May 24, 4 p.m. onwards, at the resort hotel’s grand ballroom.

As far as the range of selection goes, over 200 brands of sake, shochu, whisky, gin, beer, and wine from 40 breweries and distilleries are available for connoisseurs as well as beginners to sample. To make the evening truly a special one, Okada Manila’s chefs will also be preparing an eat-all-you can spread of curated Japanese dishes to go with guests’ preferred sakes and other drinks.

But perhaps the most important reason to be there is the rare opportunity the event offers to the country’s growing community of sake enthusiasts to personally connect and network with each other as well as with sake masters, brewery owners and brand ambassadors from across Japan and the rest of the world. All these at a relatively affordable price of P5,500 per person.

And guests need not worry of driving themselves back home after having one too many drinks. Cielo Ortega-Reboredo, Okada Manila’s VP for sales and marketing, and her team will be offering attractive discounts to guests who wish to stay overnight and further sample the hotel’s hospitality.

Officials of both PWM and Okada Manila, led by big boss Ralph Joseph and Takako Okada, respectively, recently announced the details behind the much-awaited event. Also present to further share his knowledge of sake was Raymond Joseph, younger brother of Ralph, and PWM’s director of sales and marketing.

Sake, Japan’s homegrown national spirit, has, over the decades, been gaining a growing number of fans the world over, including Filipinos. Like wines produced in France, Australia, and California, to name a few, sake is an alcoholic beverage. But unlike European and New World vintages made from grapes, sake is brewed from rice.

The quality and variety of rice and the degree with which it is milled will affect the sake’s taste and quality. There are also aged or vintage sakes, but since the distilled rice drink is valued more for its freshness, sake is best enjoyed while still “young and vibrant.”

Raymond’s love affair with sake began during his earlier trips to Japan. Over the decades, this sake afficionado’s exchanges with and exposure to various sake masters and breweries deepened his knowledge of sake. He was also instrumental in helping introduce the sake culture in the Philippines when the family-owned PWM, which, as the company’s name implies, is a wine merchant, was deciding to expand their business by importing and introducing Japanese-produced sake in the country. PWM has little reason to regret its decision.

“Our company was established in 1975,” said Joseph in a previous interview. “Over the years, we have become wine and spirits specialists, including beer and sake. We started importing sake from Japan in 2010. From then on, we’ve been at the forefront of promoting and developing the sake culture in the Philippines.”

In the same interview, Raymond shared that, generally, the more polished the rice grains are, the more expensive the sake produced from them gets.

The type of rice used, not so much the process, which is pretty much standard and traditional among Japan’s leading sake brewers, spells the difference between Brand A and Brand B. Of the 120 rice varieties used for making sake, he added, Yamada Nishiki remains one of the best.

“The featured sakes in Sake Manila will come from various prefectures in Japan that are known and popular for brewing,” Joseph assured. “We first identified those prefectures before flying to Japan and meeting their owners. Whatever we chose and embraced into our portfolio will be featured. No sake will be spared. In fact, at Sake Manila, you’ll be trying sakes worth P1,000 per bottle up to sakes worth P27,000 pesos per bottle. And we’re not keeping those bottles under the table.”

Before the pandemic, PWM used to host smaller gatherings of sake enthusiasts. Dubbed as “Sake Sessions,” the then regular sake-pairing events focused on sake variants from a particular brewery. Over Japanese dinner, guests savored their meals while taking sips of the evening’s featured sakes. This time though, “Sake Manila’s” scale is several times bigger since they’re holding it at Okada Manila’s posh grand ballroom, which, said Reboredo, can easily accommodate up to than 1,400 people.

“Sake is still in its infancy in the Philippines,” Joseph revealed.  “Our company has been promoting sake and educating people about it for quite some time now.  The job has never been easy, but it has gotten much easier over the years because Filipinos are now more global, thanks to exposure and travel.

“More so now because there are so many Filipinos traveling to Japan and Korea. And whenever they go to Japan, they want to try what Japan has to offer, including sake. Even local restaurants these days are beginning to order sake and put them in their drink list. Yes, even those not serving Japanese food.”

Although organizers promised guests one “big party,” the event is also structured in such a way that would allow guests to gain information from several English-speaking sake masters and brewers.

“There will segments in the program where I will be interviewing a sake brewer,” said Joseph. Sitting on sofa or stools, both interviewer and interviewee hope to provide important information and even entertaining bits of trivia about sake that would resonate with guests. Of course, organizers don’t want Manila’s first-ever grand sake dinner to turn into an “information overload,” Joseph added. After all, sake, together with a delicious Japanese evening feast to be prepared by the hotel, is best experienced orally and not intellectually.

Book your reservations at ; or call Erika Patajo of Okada’s sales and marketing team at 0917-5823343.

(Text and photos by Alex Y. Vergara)

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