One of the delights with travelling with a Japanese airline is sampling the island nation's food and drink (not to mention meticulous hospitality) while you soar above the clouds.
For us, that includes taking a cup or two of sake and exploring different brands, blends and flavours of rice wine – and this is where ANA's latest sake menu comes into play.
Working with renowned sake sommelier Yasuyuki Kitahara – manager of the Conrad Tokyo’s Cerise and Collage restaurants – ANA has broadened its offering to 44 sakes served across flights and in lounges, with a menu "carefully curated to appeal to avid sake lovers as well as those who may be trying sake for the first time."
ANA says it began with some 300 varieties of Japanese sake, whittled this down to a more manageable 90, and then embarked on "a rigorous screening process" of tastings and consultations with ANA service staff, including a final tasting which paired each sake with inflight cuisine.
This also included tasting each sake twice – once in the morning and once in the afternoon – to determine its appeal at different times of the day.
“At ANA we consider ourselves unofficial ambassadors for Japanese culture, which is part of the reason we aspire to set the standard for comfort and convenience in air travel,” remarks Yutaka Ito, Executive Vice President of ANA. “This commitment has been crucial to the sake selection process as we look to share this unique Japanese beverage with first-time drinkers and aficionados."
The sakes served both on ANA flights and in its international and domestic lounges will change throughout the year, and varies between routes, so travellers can enjoy another opportunity to broaden their sake palate.
Some highlights and tasting notes from ANA's 2019-2020 sake selection include:
KID Junmai Daiginjo Sparkling (first class, March-May 2019): the product of a young, dynamic group of brewers in Wakayama prefecture, the effervescent KID liquor is steeped in traditional Japanese junmai daiginjo-making techniques. It boasts subtle flavours, with a gentle sweetness that mingles with pleasant bubbling.
Kubota Manju (first class, September-November 2019): from Asahi's Niigata brewery, this premium sake strikes a perfect balance with its soft touch on the palate and delicate umami notes.
Haneya Junmaidaiginjo 50 Tsubasa (business class, June-August 2019): gold medal winner at the 2016 and 2017 IWC International Wine Challenge, and platinum at France’s Kura Master 2018, Haneya's elegant ginjo aromas complement a harmonious, fresh and clear taste.
Junmai Daiginjo Hakkaisan Snow-aged 3 years private label (business class, December 2019-February 2020): Hakkaisan Brewery is found at the foot of Mount Hakkai in the Niigata prefecture, and the spring water flowing from the mountain is used to produce this sake, which is matured in a Yukimuro 'snow room' so that the flavour of this full-bodied sake takes on smooth mellow characteristics.
Hiraizumi Junmai Daiginjo (domestic business class, March-August 2019): from the oldest brewery in the Akita prefecture, established in 1487, Hiraizumi Junmai Daiginjo leans towards deeper flavours like plum blossoms rather than showy cherry blossoms. Flavourful, light and smooth, it offers a great balance of grains with a spicy finish.
As previously reported, ANA is also upgrading the inflight experience for its business class and first class passengers with a wider range of meal choices plus new amenity kits and pyjamas.
This will also see all ANA business class travellers given the option to pre-order meals, including the full range of dishes from ANA's The Connoisseurs program – a 'fine dining at 30,000 feet' collaboration with elite chefs from around the world.