TT-591 -- Encounter with a World Champion Sommelier, e-biz news from Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
(http://www.terrie.com)

General Edition Sunday, November 21, 2010, Issue No. 591

+++ INDEX

- What's New
- Short Takes
- News
- Candidate Roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- News Credits

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+++ WHAT'S NEW

This weekend we were privileged to meet the World Champion
Sommelier, Swede Andreas Larsson, here in Tokyo. Although
not wine connoisseurs, we were assured by Richard Cohen,
the owner of one of Japan's major importers of New World
wines, Village Cellars, that Mr. Larsson was someone worth
meeting. It turns out that he was right. Being a sommelier
is much more than just tasting wines, it's more about
entertainment and social connection, and Mr. Larsson
understands this role very well.

He won his 3-year title in 2007, and although this year he
has been succeeded by a new World Champion, as with U.S.
presidents, it turns out that in the world of sommeliers
once you become a World Champion you are thereafter
recognized by your title for life.

Larsson comes to Japan twice a year, not only because he
loves the place, but also because it's business. The
sommelier movement, enshrined in the Japan Sommelier
Association (JSA), is a big deal here, with almost 17,000
sommeliers (JSA numbers). Larsson finds that the Japanese
celebrate the detail and depth of study needed to become
accomplished as a sommelier, so his appearances are usually
sold out.

The study of wine by the Japanese really started to take off
after Shinya Tasaki won became the ASI's World Champion
back in 1995. This was a huge breakthrough in what had
until then been a 30-year old competition completely
dominated by French and Italian sommeliers. After Tasaki's
win, there was a mini wine boom that ran 3 years, with
sales rapidly ramping up to 2.8 liters per person. The
market growth has cooled off since then, but still the love
of detail and nuance is alive and well with the JSA.

It doesn't hurt that the Japanese are still going strong in
international competitions and in fact had two of the three
finalists in the recent ASI "Best Sommelier of
Asia-Oceania" competition held in Osaka. Winner of that
event, which serves as a qualifier for the World
championship, was Satoru Mori, who works at the La Tour
D'Argent restaurant here in Tokyo. Third place was Nobuhida
Tani, of the same restaurant and who is actually Mori's boss...

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[...Article continues]

Back to Mr. Larsson, we learned from him that wine tasting
is just the start of being a sommelier, and that the
knowledge of food and presentation, as well as
understanding of how to present oneself on stage, are just
as important to winning the title. Interestingly, to
compete internationally Japanese sommeliers have to have
some ability in English -- so we wonder how many more there
would be on the international stage if they were allowed to
compete in Japanese only?

We asked Mr. Larsson how a World Champion sommelier makes
his money. Cheeky question? Possibly, but being in
business, we like to know how the industry ticks. He
pointed out that most sommeliers in international
competition either own or work for a restaurant, and
winning a prestigious competition or title pretty much
ensures that the restaurant will be booked out. Larsson
indeed has his own restaurant back in Sweden. Then of
course there are the appearance fees and sponsored
travel that come with each tour.

Being an international celebrity can be interesting. Asking
Mr. Larsson about some of the more unusual aspects of his
job, he responded that he gets to taste some rather old
vintages. Readers may recall from international news
reports last week that two bottles from a clutch of 200
year old champagne bottles brought up from a shipwreck
in the depths of the Baltic sea were opened and tasted.
He was actually asked to participate in the function, to
provide expert comments on how the 200-year old bubbly
had kept, but he was already booked for this Asian tour
when the invitation came through.

He did say, though, that industry friends had commented
that the champagne was drinkable, although it had gone
flat. Commenting on his own experiences, he said that the
oldest wine he has tasted was a 1780 Madeira Napoleon
Reserve. They don't come much older than that, and
apparently Madeira keeps well enough that it was very
palatable. Following that was an 1840 dry red (varietal not
mentioned), then an 1865 Burgundy...

Finally, we asked Mr. Larsson about Japanese wines, which
traditionally have been disparaged by wine experts. He said
that domestic wines are getting much better, and that wine
connoisseurs should keep an eye open for premium Koshu
labels now being produced. Koshu grapes are unique to Japan
and are mostly grown in Yamanashi Prefecture. While old
style Koshu involves dumping lots of sugar into the grape
juice before fermentation, newer vintners are experimenting
with removal of the bitter Koshu skins prior to processing,
as well as growing smaller vines for smaller and more
intensely flavored fruit. Their efforts are paying off and
literally in the last twelve months, Koshu wines have gone
from being regarded as mere plonk to becoming trendy in
overseas restaurants, priced at JPY1,500
to JPY5,000 per bottle.

...The information janitors/

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-----------------------------------------------------------

+++ NEWS

- FTAs start with small nations
- Cheap satellites
- Gastro infections surge
- Narita to slash landing fees?
- Orix buys Omote Sando building

-> FTAs start with small nations

After being told in no uncertain terms that Japan will have
to open up its agriculture market in order to get Free
Trade Agreements (FTA) with the USA and Australia, Japan is
looking for early wins by signing deals with smaller
nations that are not such a threat. The next of these is
expected to be with Mongolia, and should be signed in early
FY2011. ***Ed: Mongolia makes for good press, as Japan can
say that they have reserves of strategic rare earth minerals
and can serve as a counterbalance to China.** (Source: TT
commentary from bernama.com, Nov 20, 2010)

http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsworld.php?id=544225

-> Cheap satellites

The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) is
working with NEC and other companies to kickstart an
initiative to build and sell small, "low-cost" surveillance
satellites for sale to third world countries. The target is
to produce satellites and launch service packages
costing JPY10bn (US$120m) about 20% of existing
equipment/launch fees, and to get the first units to
market in 2012. ***Ed: Although ostensibly for disaster
relief and mapping purposes, we're sure that these
satellites could also be a politically correct form of arms
sales -- giving Japan access to a lucrative market that
it otherwise can't really participate in.** (Source: TT
commentary from google.com/afp, Nov 19, 2010)

http://bit.ly/9zWing

-> Gastro infections surge

Lock yer kids up, there is apparently an epidemic of
gastroenteritis on the way this year. The National
Institute of Infectious Diseases says that surveys show a
surge in Novovirus cases -- more than double last year --
especially among children. Novovirus gastroenteritis is
highly infectious and results in vomiting and diarrhea. The
wave of infections is expected to peak in December.
(Source: TT commentary from japantimes.co.jp, Nov 20, 2010)

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20101120x3.html

-> Narita to slash landing fees?

The Nikkei says that the operator of Narita airport is
going to slash its aircraft landing fees by as much as 50%
in March of next year, in an effort to retain its air
traffic volumes in light of competition from both Haneda
and Korea's Incheon. Apparently it costs JPY310,000 for a
midsized aircraft to land at Narita, versus JPY50,000 at
Incheon. ***Ed: Why Japan can't get ahead of the price
curve on air travel we don't know. Geographically its a
perfect location for a major hub similar to Singapore's
Changi Airport. Instead, they have let Incheon steal that
role from them.** (Source: TT commentary from nikkei.com,
Nov 21, 2010)

http://e.nikkei.com/e/ac/tnks/Nni20101120D20JFF03.htm

-> Orix buys Omote Sando building

Leasing and finance company Orix has put together a
consortium to buy the neo-classical Ralph Lauren building
on Omote Sando Dori for a reported JPY31bn. The building,
originally constructed in 2006 by a US fund, was seized by
creditors last year after the fund failed to meet payment
commitments and has been up for sale ever since. The
consortium consists of Orix, Trinity Investment of the US,
and DekaBank and some other banks. ***Ed: While real estate
commentators are speculating that this deal marks the
bottom and subsequent rise of the market, our sense is that
this deal is somewhat of a one-off, and that Japanese property
owners are still not at the point of capitulation which would
indicate a turning of the market. Rather, we think this is a
case of Orix being good at hunting out deals (although at 4%
the returns are still just modest, reliable income), and this
doesn't signal a positive ground shift in the market at this
stage.** (Source: TT commentary from nikkei.com, Nov 20,
2010)

http://e.nikkei.com/e/ac/tnks/Nni20101119D19JFF04.htm

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.

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-----------------------------------------------------------

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-----------------------------------------------------------

***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS

** Surprisingly, no events or announcements this week...

***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ CORRECTIONS/FEEDBACK

In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to editors@terrie.com.

*** No comments or feedback this week.

***********************************************************
END

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+++ ABOUT US

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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd@japaninc.com)

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