Sake meets Champagne: an interview with Regis Camus

 Regis Camus tasting base wine

The elaborate houses of Champagne and minimalistic Japan may seem worlds apart, but not to Regis Camus. Cellarmaster at Piper-Heidsieck, having been winemaker there since 1994, Regis has turned his hand from vines to rice in a Franco-Japanese venture to create the ‘world’s purest alcohol drink’.

The result? Heavensake – a luxury sake with low acidity and no sulphites, preservatives, added sugar or gluten. The two sakes in the range are produced in partnership with two of Japan’s leading sake breweries, Dassai for the Junmai Daiginjo and Urakasumi for the Junmai Ginjo.

We spoke to Regis to find out more about this unique collaboration...

 

What drew you into the world of Champagne?

I should have been a teacher. I started to study science at university, where I met oenologist students. Talking to them, I thought ‘what about studying that?’ So I did.

Piper-Heidsieck is having something of a renaissance and is gathering momentum in the UK. What is the reason for this?

Piper-Heidsieck’s quality has been getting better for years now. Since the early 2000s we’ve changed the blend a little, year after year. Today, the quality is recognised and awarded – our Brut Vintage 2008 was awarded World Champion Vintage Brut Blend by the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championship.

What’s the biggest change that you’ve seen during your time at Piper-Heidsieck?

The biggest change at Piper-Heidsieck for me has been its quality. Since I’ve been cellarmaster, I’ve worked on the blend a lot. My objective was to improve the Champagne’s quality and reinforce Piper-Heidsieck’s style.

What do you think the future holds for the Champagne market?

The competition is getting tougher – especially because of the new sparkling wines. Champagne is the top of this category, but to keep this place, only very premium Champagnes can keep going.

How did you get into sake, from a background in Champagne?

I discovered and started to enjoy sake following my travels in Japan. As Piper-Heidsieck cellarmaster, I’ve been there 12 times and met a lot of wine and sake lovers who shared their knowledge with me.

Can you remember the first sake you tried?

I can only say it was a late night… (laughs).

Where did the concept for Heavensake come from?

The founders’ love for Japanese culture and the discovery of all the benefits of sake: low acidity, no additives, no gluten, etc. Their idea was to promote a clean and pure alcohol alternative to the Western world that people could recognise and build a relationship with. The name is playful, easy to pronounce and memorable.

What was the inspiration for the look and feel?

The Heavensake team developed the bottle in France in collaboration with renowned design agency Sebastien Servaire. We aimed for an iconic and timeless design: modern, sleek and chic. The Japanese-inspired elements of the design convey the power of purity and minimalism.

What is unique about Heavensake?

The collaboration between France and Japan at this level of craftsmanship is absolutely unique. The combination of masterful Champagne blending and Japanese sake making has never been done before. The idea of drinking sake like wine is also a distinctive element of the brand. How is making sake different (or similar) to making Champagne? As with Champagne, we must blend to make sake. And you have to know that one plus one does not always equal two. You never know what you’ll get, you can only imagine. So we have to taste – it’s very different from what we learnt at school!

Making Heavensake was like making Piper-Heidsieck Champagnes. I wanted to produce ‘easy to drink’ products that make people smile. I wanted to produce sake with floral and fruity notes, that is light and elegant. The most important thing to know is that blending is a team effort: I never work on my own to taste and make Champagne blends. It’s the same with Heavensake.

What are the challenges for sake in the current market?

I think sake will become an increasingly trendy drink over the next five to 10 years, but first of all we have to change sake’s image. Too many people still think sake is hard to drink and full of alcohol, which it is not. What is the most common misconception about sake? We have to teach people that sake is not a strong spirit. In fact, sake is an atypical drink that pairs very well with elegant dishes.

 

How does Regis take his sake?

 

Browse our full range of sakes here and contact your Account Manager to taste them.

Date:
4th May 2018


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