Before the judging, a lecture was given to all judges to ensure a fair judging. The judges were also given a lecture on how to use the Sake Index, an application specially developed for the competition, and how it works.

The tasting judgment is a blind tasting only, and the scoring method is based on an absolute evaluation of each sake, as opposed to a relative evaluation based on comparisons.

The food pairing presented for 2023 were:

  • seafood salad (squid, octopus and crustaceans seasoned with lemon and olive oil),
  • Bolognese pasta (a sauce of stewed meat and vegetables served over short pasta)
  • Italian cured ham
  • Pizza Margherita
  • Strawberry gelato

The judges determined the best combination of sake and Italian cuisine, which could bring out the best of each other's flavour characteristics.

The design judging panel included design and fashion experts and designers from Milan, Italy, who are at the forefront of design and fashion in Italy, to judge the sophistication, attractiveness and functionality of the bottle, label, cap and box. The sake was arranged by category, with the typical characteristics of price range and taste explained, and the judges were asked to judge whether each sake was properly represented.
Food pairing special award

From 2023, a food pairing special awardwas established. This time it was the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Award, and ten official tasters of the association took part in the judging with the cooperation of the Parmigiano-Reggiano Association.
Fabio Giberti, Head Official Taster, and Renato Giudici, Head Battitore (a specialist artisan who taps the Parmigiano to judge its quality), also took part in the judging.
Three types of cheese were prepared, aged for 12, 24 and 40 months. The cheeses were first tasted and analysed for flavour. The tasters then tasted each of the 52 sake items selected in advance by the tasting jury and judged how they matched with the cheeses. The hall was filled with the aroma of freshly cracked cheese and the judges were impressed by the way the sake enhanced the taste of the cheese.

Judging took place in four categories:

  • junmai daiginjo and daiginjo sake
  • junmai ginjo and ginjo sake
  • junmai sake and honjozo
  • special category (sparkling, aged, yuzu and umeshu )

Tasting Judging criteria
Visual judgement of product appearance, type and gloss (depending on the category)

  • Aroma and fragrance examined by nose
  • Flavour and taste ascertained by mouth
  • Final general assessment of sake based on co-ordination of nose and mouth residence time
  • General evaluation based on harmony between food and sake (food pairing assessment)
  • Judging of whether the appearance of the label, bottle, cap, box, etc. expresses the product (design judging).

The jury was made up mainly of qualified sake sommeliers (wine sommeliers, restaurant owners, chefs, bartenders, sellers, etc.), certified by the Italian Sake Sommelier Association, who live in Italy and are strongly involved in Italian food and drink. One of the characteristics of the Milan Sake Challenge is that all members of the jury are qualified sake sommeliers, who have been trained in the proper knowledge of sake.
They are also all highly interested in sake, having been constantly involved with sake through restaurants, bars and sales.

In the design category, experts from the design and fashion world were invited to judge the sophistication, attractiveness and functionality of the bottles and labels, a judging process unique to the Milan Sake Challenge.


On June 25, the day after the Challenge, took place the Fuori Milano Sake Challenge. This impressive event, organized by the Sake Sommelier Association Italiana, was a roaring success that brought together aficionados of Sake and those keen to dive into the complex world of this traditional Japanese beverage.

An event of this magnitude requires months of rigorous preparation and the involvement of numerous professionals and enthusiasts in the field. This year, the Fuori Milano Sake Challenge saw a record number of participants, cementing its status as one of the most significant events on the national and international Sake calendar.

The event's program included free and guided tastings, workshops, seminars. These were designed to promote the culture of Sake in Italy and beyond. The multitude of activities allowed participants to explore the many facets of Sake, from its production process to its varieties, and from its centuries-old history to its modern interpretation.

A highlight of the event was the sommelier competition, which provided an unparalleled opportunity for professionals to pit their skills against one another. During the competition, the sommeliers demonstrated their expertise in Sake tasting, food pairing, and answered questions about Sake's production, and types.

However, the Fuori Milano Sake Challenge was not merely an event for professionals. Many enthusiasts and curious onlookers had the chance to participate in dedicated workshops. Here, they could learn more about Sake and its production, taste different varieties, and understand the differences between various types.

The real victory of the competition and the Fuori Milano Sake Challenge lays in the promotion and understanding of the culture of Sake. The Fuori Milano Sake Challenge 2023 has shown that Sake is not just a beverage but a cultural heritage that deserves exploration and appreciation. With anticipation already building for next year's edition, it's clear that Sake has a bright future in Italy and beyond