Chloé Cazaux Grandpierre

Founder & CEO of Chloe&Wines, as well as Otsukimi - Buveurs de Lune,
Companies specialized in wine tourism and wine promotion but also saké and Japanese beverages distribution, respectively.
The only one female certified sake educator in France by SSA (Sake Sommelier Association)

Last year, I was contacted by Anna Akizuki. This Japanese woman is super dynamic, and I was lucky enough to meet her in person in Bordeaux, where I live. We found out we shared a powerful common passion: Japanese sake.

Anna-san talked about her company Khariis and the famous service Sakeist®︎ and what it is. I knew about it but was not aware of how revolutionary the app was!

Sakeist®︎ is born in 2019 and is a free app (released in June 2020) and a website (released in January 2021) about Japanese sake. Facing the fact that a lot of wine apps already existed allowing a community to share their opinion on what they have tasted, something was missing for nihonshu. Then, it was normal to fill the lack of an app dedicated to nihonshu and Japanese beverages: it’s how Sakeist®︎ is born.

I was shocked when Anna-san asked me to become one of her ambassadors this year. I feel honored to be part of this journey. Then, for Sakeist®︎, I do webinars with sake producers, I taste samples to write comments and create food pairings to enrich the contents… and I conduct interviews.

This time, I thought it would be interesting to interview Anna-san.

Indeed, behind Sakeist®︎ you have women and men working to promote Japanese sake in Japan but also in France. To better understand how Sakeist®︎ was born, we chatted together with Anna-san. I wanted to share with you who she is, why she decided to create Sakeist®︎, what is the purpose… This article is for you, sake connoisseur or sake newbie, who are using Sakeist®︎ or not yet! So, let’s meet together Anna-san.


1. Could you tell us who you are and what is your background? 

My name is Anna Akizuki and I am the founder and CEO of Sakeist®︎. Like many professionals in France, but unlikely in Japan, I have a wine professional background. I started my wine industry career in sales at a wine importer in Tokyo. Thereafter my MBA at NEOMA Business School in Reims (Champagne – France), I jumped into the marketing and promotion field for a prestigious wine brand in NZ owned by a Japanese entrepreneur. I worked for this company during 4 years before creating Kharris Co., Ltd in 2019 which includes Sakeist®︎.


2. Why did you decided to focus on Japanese Sake? Do you remember the first time you encountered sake in your life?

There are many reasons! One of the main reasons is because I strongly believe that Japanese sake has a huge growing potential on the international market, especially in wine dominated countries. I was so surprised and shocked about the decline sales rate on Japanese market. I discovered this waning while I was studying Sake Diploma of JSA (Japan Sommelier Association) four years ago.

Also, around the same time, a couple of “sempai” (alumni) from my university in Kobe were handed over presidency of traditional kuras mainly in Nada area and I encountered some key figures who have played an important role in both sake and wine industries.

Such reasons and opportunities drove me closer to the sake industry and I became increasingly interested to learn more. Indeed, to speak honestly, my image towards Japanese sake was not really positive. The first time I encountered sake in my life was a paper packed futsu-shu at my parents’ home. Since this experience, I barely tried to taste other sakes just until one year before starting my company. I was really lucky because it changed my image towards Japanese sake. Now I am enjoying many bottles of great producers! So that’s why I would like to create “wow” experiences and opportunities to people, especially the one who consume seldomly sake.


3. How the idea of Sakeist®︎ was born and when?

I came up with the idea of Sakeist®︎ when discussing with our former staff living in Paris. This was 4 years ago now and just 6 months before my company’s foundation. She gave me an insight about how French people have difficulties to read Japanese kanji ideograms on sake labels. She then asked me if it was possible to develop a sake label scanning app.

Initially, I was confused as I never worked or been involved with IT industry or services before. At the same time, I felt it was a chance to become a pioneer. It was a way to meet the needs of consumers and sake producers at the same time. Without forgetting to express my love of sake and my will to reverse the sales decline I was now aware of. So, to better understand what I was about to face, I visited the “Salon du Sake” in 2019 in Paris: it was the turning point!


4. Is it difficult as a woman to have launched a company in Japan in the sake field? 

Yes and No. It is challenging because Sake industry has lesser female entrepreneurs than in the wine industry. But on the other hand, being a woman makes me rare and unique in the contrary of men.

I have been working hard and at the same time I was really lucky because one of my friends, who owns a famous restaurant in Japan, was kind enough to share his network of leading sake breweries and kuramotos with me. Without this contacts list, it might have been quite difficult for me to get in touch with them.


5. Why did you choose this name: Sakeist®︎? 

I wanted to create a special community where producers, professionals, and consumers, all of whom are “Sakeists”, meet!


6. What is the purpose of Sakeist®︎? 

The ultimate goal of Sakeist®︎ is to create a future where everybody (except for those who don’t consume any drinks of course) enjoy sake nearly at the same frequency of wine in their daily life! In order to achieve this goal, I wanted to create a platform, navigating for people to be able to understand intuitively and easily the characteristic of each sake product, regardless the sake knowledge degree. It’s the motto of Sakeist®︎: “Know your sake”. So, they will also be able to buy these sakes wherever they are.

But it’s not over: we do have other missions like to tell the behind-the-scenes stories of sake breweries and talk about regionalities. It’s a way to educate and to propose, to both professionals and consumers, not only sake knowledge but also to be part of a new sake culture like pairing sake with food beyond Japanese context.


7. Why are you working with France? What is your link with this country?

My relationship with France started twenty years ago. Initially, I came to France to study French for two months in Rambouillet and Bordeaux while I was doing my MA of psychology at a Graduate School in Japan. I felt in love with France, and I decided to go back to this country for MBA few years after. I have been happy to live in Reims and Paris since then.

From my point of view, France plays a very important role in promoting and creating a new sake culture. It is especially appealing to wine professionals and consumers. I am sure that some of our readers know the current situation of the global sake industry: sake distribution is quite limited to Japanese style restaurants (i.e sushi, kaiseki, teppanyaki, udon, ramen, soba, etc) around the globe. However, sake has so much more to offer with French, Italian or whatever cuisines than only Japanese gastronomy. France, with its strong wine and food background, is a pilar and I strongly believe that it’s the place to be to brand sake as an international cuisine’s beverage. I am fundamentally persuaded of that since I lived in France and with my wine professional experience.


8. You have several ambassadors: how do you choose them and what are their goals?

I chose three ambassadors (i.e Chloé Cazaux Grandpierre DipWEST, Julia Scavo Dip WSET and David Biraud MOF) because of the passion they have to promote Japanese sake and also their popularity. And it’s the goal of the ambassadors: being able to share this love of sake among as many people as possible.


9. You are doing seminars with sake producers: why is it important to listen to them? 

Unfortunately, the behind the scenes of each producer’s story has not been related often other than in Japanese language. It’s a shame because it’s part of the experience and our seminars allow to create a strong bond between the producers, their sakes and the professionals or the consumers outside of Japan. It’s a great way to discover their history, where they are located, what is their philosophy and what sakes they produce. During a moment, a bridge is created, and we can feel that sake is a cultural beverage which purpose is the spend a great time (with moderation always).


10) How do you see Sakeist®︎ in 10 years? 

In 10 years from now, Sakeist®︎ will be the biggest sake community and infrastructure for all related sake people in the world like breweries, consumers, and professionals. We will meet and exchange information but we will also be able to buy sakes easily via our app and website. This is my wish.


Sakeist®︎ is an adventure. I hope this interview allowed you to understand better the purpose of Sakeist®︎ and to (re)discover this amazing app and website.


Know that it’s a non-stop process: the app and website will be redeveloped around the end of 2022 or early 2023. Some new features will be added like the ambassador’s tasting comments or a webinar registration space… So like this your experience through will improve.


Don’t hesitate to download it and use it. So, you know your sake !

Chloé Cazaux Grandpierre

Founder & CEO of Chloe&Wines, as well as Otsukimi - Buveurs de Lune,
Companies specialized in wine tourism and wine promotion but also saké and Japanese beverages distribution, respectively.
The only one female certified sake educator in France by SSA (Sake Sommelier Association)