Do you know the ultra-professionally produced French sake in Pélussin, in the Rhone Valley, the sake of Grégoire Bœuf, Les Larmes duhttps://www.midorinoshima.com/en/651-les-larmes-du-levant-3-sakes-et-accessoires.html Levant? Well it's time to take a closer look. Not only is the quality there, but these products are doing very well, in France and abroad. And who better than Grégoire himself to tell us about it? We asked him a few questions and asked for his tasting advice about the selection on offer today.
WE MAKE THE PRESENTATIONS
My name is Grégoire Boeuf, I have just turned 38 years old, I live in Pélussin, a small village in the Rhone valley, in the heart of the Côte-Rôtie where I established over 4 years ago the sakagura Les Larmes du Levant. My first real encounter with sake took place in Japan 7 years ago during a family trip. Absolute love at first sight. I've been drinking it almost every day and I quit everything to become Kuramoto and found sakagura. After several years of preparation including a year in Japan in the sakagura of my shishô Umletsu san and in the izakaya of my friend Takaya san in Tokyo, we started production in 2017.
LES LARMES DU LEVANT - 6 QUESTIONS
When and how did you get the idea to produce Japanese sake in France?
The idea came almost by chance. I was lucky enough to meet Simeon and Julien d'Osake in 2014 during a well-drunk tasting evening at home. The idea of producing in France came out almost like a joke or a challenge after the 10th bottle of sake had been emptied. Except that we followed this crazy idea together and continued to work on it. Until March 2014, through the two friends, I met Umetsu san with whom we spent time talking about the project. In the end he will invite me to his place to help me discover the sake business but also the logistics and set up both in Japan and later in France. Without him and without these meetings, nothing would have been possible.
Tell us about the first steps, the installation, the first cuvées
The installation was epic! Everything had to be created from scratch and no precedent could help us. From importing some fune-type machines (a 3-ton hydraulic press), to creating a kôji-muro worthy of the name, everything was a constant challenge. The legendary delay of the works at home was also a heavy element in the first cuvées, when we finally started the first brews of 2017, the month of March was already well started and we had to fight against scorching temperatures and fight with equipment not yet finished (especially the press which was not yet adapted). So 7000 liters of sake to be released in Fukurotsuri in epic conditions.
The 2017 cuvées were truly unique. At the nihonjôzokyôkai when they were presented with the analyses and the cuvées, they thought it was sake from the end of Edo; thank God today everything is better and we are working under normal conditions!
After a few years, how is the marketing going?
The first years were hard, mainly because the French market was still underdeveloped. Today there is a clear difference, the public has a better knowledge of sake in general, although there is still a lot of work to be done in this area. We also work 90% with restaurants and wine merchants because I think it is necessary to have trained professionals capable of guiding the public towards sake, by proposing agreements for example. Still too few people go spontaneously to sake. But many are ready to be guided. Now that we are starting to get a little recognition from the professional community, marketing is going better.
We are present in Belgium and Japan for export, which is a great honor because few non-Japanese sakagura are present in Japan. In the autumn we will also be distributed in Morocco and England.
How do you position your products in relation to Japanese sake?
The starting point was to produce in the traditional way, as in Japan, but without ever making a simple copy. We really want to offer something with its own identity. To reproduce at 9000 km what the Japanese already do so well wouldn't make sense to me. We are therefore particularly attached to agreements with local gastronomy, which I believe is essential to the perpetuation of sake in France and throughout the world.
My training, my sake culture comes from Junmai Kimoto made with indigenous yeast and I drink a lot of Kanzake, which explains the approach that is more Umami than aromatic in our products. We try to make sake without aromatic artifices but instead preserve the taste of the rice and go naturally to the contact with the food.
But what about sake produced outside Japan if we were to make a brief overview?
I had the chance to taste about forty of them last year in Kyoto. There is a large number of kura in North America and there is a flowering of kura and projects. And this is only the beginning. Since last year I have received more than 5 people who came to ask for advice on how to create a sakagura in France or in Europe. Some of them succeeded.
There is no doubt that the future of sake is at the international level. The Japanese government strongly supports the process. For the moment, my very personal opinion is that there is a lot of work to be done on the Kôji and the Kôji muros. The investment to be made is heavy but the world quality would greatly benefit.
What are the projects, the objectives, the next vintages?
The project is the passage under 5 years in total autonomy. We work with natural spring water and indigenous yeast. The next step is the cultivation of our own rice in organic farming. I visit quite a lot of land around the kura, it is difficult there to find non-viticultural and irrigable land, but I am hopeful. We made a mini rice field in the garden of the kura (3m x 3m) and the rice is growing well! It is the logical continuation of the project.
For the cuvées we will continue to refine "l'Aube" and "le Vent" to give them even more drinkability without making them too "liquid". We will also release a more affordable version of the Tenshin that we will work like a shinshu and that will be available throughout the brewing season. The idea is to offer this sake as an early drink following the life cycle of moromi.
SPECIAL OFFER : 3 SAKES & ACCESSORIES OFFERED
Our offer is composed of these 3 emblematic sake + as a gift two ceramic sake cups stamped "Les Larmes du Levant", a sakazuki and a guinomi.
Grégoire's notes on the sake offered
L'Aube 2019 has a lively side that I like enough to slice the fat off a smoked fish and enhance the taste. I also like to make a marinade of raw salmon with lemon, dill, pink berries and a drizzle of olive oil in the summer. In the vegan version, a vegetable terrine with wasabi mayonnaise works just as well. To be served rather fresh.
La Vague is on more autumnal notes of undergrowth with a dominant on morel mushrooms and boletus. I like to drink it at room temperature with a rich cured ham, typically a pata negra or a cured San Daniele. Pressed cooked cheeses are also a great match. Hot is even better!
Le Tonnerre is sharper and more versatile. One of our customers in Osaka proposes it very fresh with a caramelized Wagyu beef to slice the fat. I enjoy it with spicy food, at the moment I'm in the accras, cod or vegetables but with a lot of chili peppers!
After that, everyone is free to test the chords and the temperatures, that's the richness of sake!