We import premium sake exclusively from Niigata and sell it under our brand “Niigata Sake Selections".
Premium sake from Japan has been steadily gaining its popularity among American consumers.
The import value increased at an annual rate of 13-21% for the last several years.
The future demand is expected to grow at a faster rate because of the recent media coverage including the New York Times, CNN and Wine Spectator as well as an increasing number of non-Japanese high-end restaurants offering premium sake on their menu.
Meanwhile, no importers or distributors have paid much attention to appellation or difference of sake by region as they do for wine. Thus, when consumers choose sake on or off-premise, they have no clue except price unless they are lucky enough to have advice from sake experts.
Niigata Sake Selections was set up in 2004 to bring the concept of regionality for sake for the first time into the US by importing premium sake only from “Niigata” [nee- gut-ah] prefecture, which is renowned in Japan as the best area for growing rice and fermenting sake. Although Niigata is ranked third with 7% market share in Japan in terms of sake production volume by region behind Hyogo (Kobe area) and Kyoto, it accounts for 18% of the super premium market, being ranked the highest. Unlike the other two major sake regions, the majority of 96 producers in Niigata are tiny, family-run, and quality oriented.
Ataru Kobayashi, Founder of Niigata Sake Selections, hand-picked 18 sakes made by 11 producers for the first launch in 2005. The focus of the fist Niigata Sake Selections is on outstanding characteristics of Niigata sake known as “Tanrei Karakuchi” or very refined, light and dry. The Niigata Sake Selections is distributed in most of major markets in the US (18 states as of May 2008).
Ataru moved into the United States in 2002 with his wife Mayumi. His family has been making sake in Niigata since 1916. Before starting up Niigata Sake Selections in New York, he had spent 20 years in international chemical business with Shell Chemicals and International Specialty Products. He earned Bachelor of Chemical Engineering from Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan and M.B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Niigata Sake Selections project has been supported by the prefectural government of Niigata since its inception.
Ataru Kobayashi Founder
Niigata Prefecture is renowned in Japan as the best area for growing rice and fermenting sake due to its deep snow and abundance of soft clear pure water.