Warming Up With Koikawa
After looking at Kusumi Brewery’s Kiyoizumi Kame no O Tokubetsu Junmai it seemed only fair and balanced to give some props to Koikawa – the other brewery often lauded as the revivalists of the Kame no O rice variety. Not that this is a contest, far from it. As I said before I actually don’t really care which brewery was the first to bring Kame no O back, I just thought it’d be as good an excuse as any to look at another Kame no O sake.
Koikawa is located in Yamagata prefecture, just north of Niigata in the region known as Tohoku along with Miyagi, Iwate, Aomori, Akita and Fukushima. The Tohoku region is widely considered one of the powerhouse areas for quality sake. The cool winters and mountainous location provide some of the best conditions for sake brewing.
It’s pretty much impossible to talk about Koikawa without talking about Kame no O. Even their labels proclaim 亀の尾発祥地 “birthplace of Kame no O”. Koikawa are firm believers in the concept of of jizake (local sake). The most widely used rice variety, Yamadanishiki is predominantly grown in Western Hyogo so Koikawa proudly shuns it for their local Kame no O which they use for the majority of their sake. The Koikawa sake I’m enjoying today is their Kame Kijoujitsu Junmai Ginjo (bit of a mouthful). Firstly a bit of a caveat, the bottle I have is from 2010 so it’s not at it’s peak freshness by any means but I think it holds up well. First couple of glasses I had chilled (as I usually do with any Ginjo) and although it was good with some umami fullness and a soft smooth acidity I got that nagging feeling that warmed might be the go. Which incidentally is a good tip; If you ever come across a sake that isn’t quite doing it for you, give it a warm up and try it gradually as it cools to try and find its ideal drinking temperature. There really isn’t much bad sake out there in the Tokutei Meishoushu (Special Designation) level so don’t be too hasty in writing off a sake if it doesn’t grab you at first sip.
Sure enough after a few minutes on the stove I found a whole new sake. At the hot level the alcohol poked it’s head through a touch but as it dropped to around 40 degrees it showed some milky, chestnut aromas with a bit of poached pear. On the palate the balance came together beautifully. The fact that it was a coolish evening probably helped a bit but lets’s face it, warm sake on a cool night is awesome! Yeah, you could heat up some mulled wine or have big roasty stout on a winter night but you can’t beat o-kan. Even as it dropped to room temperature it held it’s balance much better than when it was chilled.
Kane no O is quite popular in Japan with serious drinkers and it’s probably fair to say that the breweries that bother to work with a rice variety not known for being as malleable as others are clearly doing it because they see something worthwhile and special in the variety and when the sake tastes this good I can see what attracts them to this mysterious rice.
Koikawa Kamejikoujitsu, Yamagata Prefecture
Seimaibuai 55% Kame no O rice