Japan’s largest Wagyu beef fair, held every five years and dubbed the ‘Wagyu Olympics,’ is due to take place from 6 -10 October.
Loved for its abundant marbling and ultra-tender, buttery texture, Wagyu is seen by many as the pinnacle of steaks. With Wagyu production taking place exclusively in Japan, there are many regional variations in the diet and lifestyle of its cattle, and therefore in the flavour of the meat.
Enter the ‘Wagyu Olympics’. Held once every five years, Zenkyo (Japan’s largest Wagyu beef fair) brings regions from across the country together to determine the very best Wagyu on offer from Japan. This year, the fair will be staged in the Kagoshima prefecture on the island of Kyushu.
The October event will see prefectures from all over Japan compete for the best prime Wagyu beef, with quality determined by breed, sex, age, grading, geography, feed and logistics of the cows.
While some of the above categories are fairly self-explanatory, others such as ‘Geography’ are more abstract to the outside eye. Geography refers to how the climate and temperature influence the ways in which the cattle grow. For example, cows typically grow slower in colder climates, and their muscle fibres tend to be more delicate. All these complex factors are taken into consideration when assessing the Wagyu.
Miyazaki and Kagoshima are the foremost Wagyu-producing regions in Japan, with the highest production volume and strong support from their local governments. One of the reasons for Miyazaki’s success is the meticulous attention to quality control when breeding and rearing its Black cattle breed, witha detailed heritage recording system and measures including strict food selection, and one rancher dedicated to looking after four cows at a time.
The Wagyu Olympics serves as a gauge for the quality of the nation’s beef as well as offering beneficial publicity for the Japanese regions that take part.
Wondering which wine to pair with your Wagyu steak? According to The Wagyu Shop, the pepper, mint and smoke flavours found in a medium-to-full-bodied Shiraz “beautifully balance the subtle sophisticated flavours of the beef”.
A Merlot-dominant Right Bank Bordeaux, a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Sangiovese are also ideal pairings for Wagyu. The earthy, rustic, fruity and savoury characteristics of the latter “offers high levels of tannins and a perky acidity that works well with more decadent, fatty cuts of meat”, says The Wagyu Shop.
However, experts say you shouldn’t necessarily feel restrained to reds when it comes to choosing a bottle for your steak. A full-bodied Chardonnay can work just as well.
Wagyu is sourced from four main cattle breeds – Kuroge (Black), Aakage (Brown), Nihon Tankaku (Shorthorn) and Mukaku (Polled).
This article was originally published by the drinks business and has been shared with permission.