Chartier X Tanaka 1789's Bottle Masterfully Blends The Craft Of Two Masters

by Rudy Sanchez on 07/09/2020 | 4 Minute Read

Flavor and taste are so complex that some have devoted their lives to understanding them at a molecular level. 

One of those people is François Chartier, long regarded as one of the leading experts in molecular-level flavor. He's consulted for Chef Ferran Adrià at the world-class El Bulli, written numerous best-selling cookbooks, and launched a TV and app video series. His latest work revolves around wine, with experimentations that incorporate techniques from one wine tradition into another, meticulously overseeing every process and ingredient along with the collaboration of another master craftsman.

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Chartier worked with sake brewer Tanaka 1789’s Toji (master brewer) Morikawa, to develop a unique drink whose flavor they crafted to pair well with food using a technique common among wines-blending-but not seen in the world of all things rice wine. Tanaka brewed 11 sakes, using different combinations of rice, yeasts, and koji (a fungus used to make alcohols), all brewed at a high temperature, then pasteurized at a very low temperature to ensure full flavor. The sake hybrid is then expertly blended by Chartier and aged for over a year.

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Such a special sake merited an equally unique bottle, and François Chartier turned to the talented folks at forceMAJEURE to create the branding and packaging. The agency, found inspiration in the quality and innovation of the extraordinary collaboration that combined elements from Chartier’s passionate work in molecular gastronomy and wine along with the heritage and diligence of Tanaka 1789’s sake brewing to showcase this fruitful team-up.

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“We were looking for an elegant shape that has a long neck that resembles a white wine from France," explained Laurent Hainaut, President & CEO, forceMAJEURE. "There is no sake bottle with that kind of shape, so it's a tribute to the blending of the culture."

“However,” he added, “the black matte treatment is a reference to premium sake in Japan. So there is always that balance we were looking for. We don't want to alienate the reality that this is a true Japanese sake, but we also wanted to indicate that there is something very unique about the way the sake was blended.”

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Chartier X Tanaka 1789’s logo incorporates Chartier’s hexagonal mark with shapes found in the architecture of Tanaka’s building. The names intersect at an "A" inside the hexagon, and the pattern gets repeated against the lacquer-like finish of the black label with white text. A black glass VinoSeal stopper also gets sealed with a label as is traditional in sake.

Creating a bridge between different traditions and disciplines can be difficult, and requires a deft touch. The result has to be something new and exciting, representing and respecting the origins of inspiration. One misstep can turn fusion into confusion, although thanks to the agency’s diverse composition, this was more of a lesson reminder than a potential pratfall.

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“I think there is something to learn about the importance of culture, of understanding that fine balance between what you perceive being the aesthetic when you’re outside [of a culture] and what it really is when you are inside [of that culture] when trying to have a foot in both sides,” Laurent said.

The agency’s multicultural composition was a tangible asset for forceMAJEURE on this project, lending it an authenticity only possible when there’s a deep understanding of the traditions and cultures behind the brand, which in Chartier X Tanaka’s case is a blend of high-level molecular gastronomy, wine blending, and sake brewing. For a project that incorporates such diverse backgrounds to be executed with a sense of authenticity and beauty, having an equally diverse group of talent goes a long way. It's also something Hainaut sought when forming the agency.

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“We have a very multicultural team at forceMAJEURE; we always have," says Laurent. "When I arrived in New York, I enjoyed the ability to find people from everywhere and work with people I didn’t know or completely understand from different cultures." For him, it was a start contrast to his experiences in London and Paris, where he saw less cultural collaboration.

Like Chartier X Tanaka 1789’s sake blends, forceMAJEURE melds the sensibilities of western wine to premium Japanese sake in an elegant manner that conveys quality, sophistication, and a kind of rarity that helps make it distinct. Like Chartier’s devotion to the essence of flavor, forceMAJEURE dug deep into the blended sake collaboration to accentuate its fundamental nature through the branding and packaging. The final result is reminiscent of the traditions and attention-to-detail of Tanaka’s sake brewing, mastered over more than 200 years.

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