Dewazakura

I’m writing today’s post with a bit of a spring in my step. Australia’s sake market is still very young and as such there still isn’t a huge range of sake available here, retail or in restaurants. But the good news is the ones we are getting are of a pretty high standard and you can’t get much higher than Dewazakura from Yamagata prefecture.
Dewazakura is a very popular brewery as shown in its number eight ranking on the popular sake consumer site Sake Monogatari (sake stories) but is also famous for its promotion of the local rice variety Dewasansan.
Firstly, the name. Dewa comes from the name for the Yamagata region used in the 7th century: Dewakuni (Dewa country) and zakura (or sakura) meaning cherry blossom. Dewazakura have been brewing sake since 1892 and are firmly in place as industry leaders. The sake I have today is one of their flagship brews, the Dewazakura Dewasansan Junmai Ginjo Commemorative Nama (once pasteurized).
A bit of a mouthful but an amazing sake. 20 odd years ago the brewers of Yamagata got together and decided they needed to do something to raise the level of Yamagata sake and get it out in the forefront. All sorts of research were undertaken, new yeasts were cultivated, techniques refined. But the big development after eleven years was the birth of Dewasansan rice. Again the name comes from the old regional name of Dewa combined with a bit of word play. Stick with me here….Yamagata is surrounded by lots of mountains of varying heights. 33 of those mountains reach the 1400m height. 33 in Japanese is sanjusan or if you just say 3 twice, sansan. Which is why sometimes you’ll see it written as 出羽33 It’s also a play on the word for “mountainous”, yamayama written as 山々. However due to the unbelievable complications that is the Japanese language that character could also be read as sansan. The discoverers of this rice variety decided they wanted to give the rice a name with a bit of flair so they came up with 燦々 meaning brilliant or bright which also reads as sansan. Giving us,出羽燦々 So, there you have three interpretations of how they got the sansan part of the name. Whether my explanation makes any sense or if it was worth it, I’ll leave up to you.
Since its inception Dewasansan has become the pride of Yamagata with plenty of 008 breweries picking it up and producing soft elegant brews. The other interesting twist to the Dewasansan story is the creation of a sort of appellation controlee clause decreed by the Yamagata Pure Brewing Inspectors. This stipulates that if a sake is made under the set conditions it may bear the official Dewasansan sticker:
*100% use of Dewasansan
*Must be of Junmai Ginjo level (no added alcohol allowed)
*Rice milling rate must be less than 55%
*Must use yeast and koji of Yamagata origin.
And if you thought they couldn’t take this any more seriously, they even have a theme song. Yessir, a Dewasansan theme song. Click on this link and scroll to the bottom MP3 link to hear it in iTunes. Inspiring stuff.

All of this brings us to Dewazakura’s Junmai Ginjo bearing the approved Dewasansan sticker. As I mentioned at the top of this post I’m in a bit of a good mood because quite honestly I think this is one of the best sake available in Australia. A big call maybe but I’ll stand by it. Being (partly) unpasteurized, it shows those big unrestrained aromas of pear, hints of cocoa, and the nama (unpasteurized) character of white rind cheese. Then take a sip and it seduces your palate entirely. Umami deliciousness, balanced, tight acid and fullness that covers every corner of the mouth. For me this is why I love sake. Dewazakura Dewasansan Junmai Ginjo is out and about in restaurants and maybe a couple of retailers. If you spot it around hope that it’s been stored in the fridge before you fork over your hard-earned because for unpasteurized sake room temperature or even worse, an Australian summer can be detrimental to the sake. Remember, sake has no preservatives so care must be taken with storage. Keeping that in mind, by all means hunt about and if you can’t find it hassle your local bottle-shop or restaurant to get it in, coz if you aren’t a sake fan yet a couple of sips of Dewazakura and you will be.
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Dewazakura Junmai Ginjo Dewasansan Tanjo Kinen   出羽桜純米吟醸出羽燦々誕生記念
Yamagata Prefecture Dewasansan Rice
Seiamaibuai: 50% Yamagata Yeast

Tohoku Saké and Peace of Mind

Two years on and I still encounter quite a few people who are a little hesitant about sake due to the tragic events of March 2011. While many consumers initial reaction following the earthquake and following tsunami that hit the Northern Japan region of Tokoku was to go out and buy sake from the affected regions in a show of support, that support slowed right down following the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Panic set in and folks were concerned sake from those regions may be tainted or worse contaminated with radioactivity.
While I don’t wish to play down the severity of what happened in 2011, some of the reactions were based on panic rather than facts. To clarify, Tohoku is the name for the North Eastern part of the main island of Japan. It is made up of Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, Yamagata, Akita and Aomori prefectures.
Firstly, for the rest of 2011 and a good part of 2012 the sake from these regions had already been brewed and and much was even already bottled. March is around the end of the brewing season so all the rice and water that went into 2011 sake had already been harvested and sourced. Sake breweries are sturdy buildings many with thick concrete walls to prevent against temperature fluctuations and sake that was being stored in breweries was quite safe (from radiation-not the floods, a lot of stock was lost). This of course meant the “risk” lay more in sake being brewed in late 2011 early 2012. The first harvests of 2011 were not used in sake brewing as the Japanese Agricultural Co-Op was inspecting and testing the rice. Breweries from the Tohoku region used rice from Western Japan and other regions as many of them do anyway, quite removed from the explosion zone. All rice in Tohoku is being tested with the rice from Fukushima and the immediate surrounding areas being tested up to four times more vigorously. As most of these tests are spot checks breweries are conducting their own tests once they have purchased their brewing rice. It’s important to remember the sake industry in Japan is not exactly booming, the last thing these breweries want to do is put the final nail in the coffin by selling contaminated sake.
Another point is when rice is used for sake brewing it is milled down from its original size by as much 70%. Those outer layers are milled away and are used for such things as feed for farm animals, pickles and even to make cosmetic products. And again this rice refuse (called nuka) is also tested for radiation by the National Agricultural Co-Op. If the levels of the outer 50% or so of the rice is safe you could expect the inner centre of the rice grain to be equally safe and testing has proven that cesium does not penetrate that deeply into unmilled brown rice.. Sake is also being tested in its final production stages (roughly three months after production start). So far there have been no incidents of rice used in sake exceeding the accepted cesium levels or incidents of contaminated sake itself. What about water I hear you ask? Water used for brewing is usually sourced from wells deep underground. The radiation fortunately hasn’t penetrated that far into the earth and for the most part water even in Fukushima (and more importantly the water used for brewing) has been declared safe. Breweries are doing all this testing voluntarily, as I said no one wants to compromise the quality and reputation of Japanese sake or harm a populace to avoid losing business.
Last year at the National New Sake Awards sake from Fukushima cleaned up with 22 gold medals. And for you cynics out there, this is a blind tasting competition so there was no sympathy vote for Fukushima. The quality of sake is not suffering, these guys are putting it on the line and churning out quality sake that is safe to drink against everything nature threw at them two years ago. I’m not going to get into the conspiracy theories or exaggerated journalism that’s been prevalent for the last two years and of course the decision on whether or not to trust sake from the Tohoku region will ultimately come down to the consumer but personally, I’m behind them all the way. Drink Tohoku!

And on that note, one of the most easily recognizable sake labels, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Urakasumi‘s Junma Ginjo Zen is a gorgeous palate cleansing brew. Aromas of cedar (though no cedar barrel contact), chestnut, melon and poached pear. Ample bodied mouthfeel with some plump, rice driven characters. Urakasumi recommends this sake with oysters and I couldn’t agree more!
Urakasumi Junmai Ginjo Zen
Miyagi Prefecture
Seimaibuai 50% Toyonishiki, Yamadanishiki Rice

For accurate accounts on the goings on in Tohoku rather than tabloid sensationalism:
Japan Consulate General
World Health Organization

Melbourne’s Saké King-Pin

Cosmopolitan, multicultural, funky and a little bit hipster, it’s probably fair to say that when it comes to restaurants and bars Melbourne is leading the way in this country. The first city to (finally!) catch on to the merits of small bars and boasting hundreds of interesting restaurants minus the pretensions that can be found in some other big cities it’s simply a great place to be for those that like a good meal and maybe a little something to drink. Fortunately Sake hasn’t been left behind, finding its way onto more than a few wine lists and bar menus as a number of venues take up the charge to bring nihonshu to the wider audience it deserves.

andreAmong these one gent in a particular has done a bit more than others. Andre Bishop has earned himself a bit of a name as the go-to guy when it comes to sake. Andre had an interest in all things Japan from an early age in particular the anime and manga driven pop-culture of Japan. In later years this interest grew into something bigger thanks to a backpacking tour of Japan and he decided that Japan was the place for him. However things don’t always go as planned and family life saw Andre remain in Australia. With the idea that if he couldn’t go to Japan he’d bring Japan here, Andre set about starting his own Japanese sub-culture in the city of Melbourne.

Since his first venture with Robot Izakaya and now armed with an Advanced Sake Professional Certificate from the Sake

Kumo

Kumo

Education Council, Andre runs a mini sake empire of three Japanese themed venues around Melbourne. Serving as the flagship is Kumo Izakaya a chic take on the rustic izakaya you normally find in Japan, Kumo offers a mix of traditional Japanese food with a few Australian-centric twists and also boasts probably Australia’s largest sake menu. Izakaya Chuji is more of a nod to the rustic style with a casual atmosphere and a more home style cooking kind of menu with a formidable sushi counter. Chuji is actually one of the older Japanese restaurants in Melbourne, Andre took over the licence a number of years ago. Next door you’ll find Nihonshu Bar, a funky drinking hole dedicated to sake, shochu and some tastefully selected Japanese whisky and Awamori. Regular sake events, tastings and dinners are held at Kumo so if you’re a Melbournite keep an eye out.
Izakaya Chuji

Izakaya Chuji


Having a drink and a chat with Andre one of the things that shines through is his genuine love for sake. It would be fair to say there are a couple of bandwagon jumpers out there that have latched onto sake as “the next big thing” and see it as a selling point or commodity but Andre is the real deal. He makes regular visits to Japan to check out breweries and keep up with what’s going on, often sourcing some nifty little tidbits while he’s at it. Andre can be often found at any of his establishments happy to chat and ready with any recommendations, so if you’re thinking about taking the step into the sake world and having a peek, pop in and I’m sure Andre will be happy to show you around.

Saké To Make The Girls Cry

020I have to admit it’s been a while since I had a daiginjo. Despite their status at the top of the sake totem pole, I tend to go for more of the regular drinkin styles of sake rather than the high flying elegance of the daiginjo. Don’t get me wrong, I love daiginjo but I kind of think of them as a sake for special occasions rather than everyday drinking.
Which is why it was kind of ironic that I was at a casual dinner drinking several different sake in a lively environment when I first came across Onna Nakase Junmai Daiginjo. Although the sake on offer that evening were all of different styles and grades, there was something about this particular sake and its clean, fresh flavour that seemed to wake my palate with each sip drawing me back. Fast forward a couple of years and it was on a recent trip to Japan that I happened to spot it in a bottle shop and the memories came flooding back. So, of course I grabbed a bottle.
Onna Nakase translates as “make the girls cry”. Makers Oomuraya Brewery in Shizuoka (south-west of Tokyo by the sea, home of Mt Fuji!) have a bit of a knack for coming up with memorable names for their sake. Their Wakatake Onikoroshi Junmai (Demon Slayer) is an immensely popular sake in North America and Japan that I recently spotted on the list at O-Sushi prompting me to check up on the bottle of Onna Nakase I had stashed away. (Incidentally, there are quite a few sake in Japan that bear the Onikoroshi name. Since years gone by it has been popular as a name for sake so dry and easy to drink it would kill a demon. There is at least one other available in Australia from Kyoto brewery Kizakura).
Oomuraya have been brewing since 1832 and source their soft-water from the Southern Alps of Shizuoka. Proudly Shizuoka, about half of the rice used in production is grown locally as well as using yeast strains developed by Shizuoka breweries.
While I’m careful not to make too broad a generalisation, I find there is something summery about Shizuoka sake I can’t quite put my finger on but it is often clean, light and well suited to light foods. Upon revisiting this sake it’s easy to remember why it stood out so much that evening. Quite a show-stopper; flamboyant aromas of melon, pine, banana, watermelon are all over the place. On the palate it hits with a bold, fresh slap; there’s considerable body behind it and obvious koji presence. Umami laden, this would be fantastic with sea urchin or maybe eggplant grilled with white miso. As I said, I don’t think of daiginjo as everyday drinking style of sake and Onna Nakase proves the theory. Quite lavish and over the top, a couple of glasses and I’m wearing out. Not from the alcohol but from the decadent richness.
I’m yet to confirm that Onna Nakase is available in Australia, but the fact that Wakatake Onikoroshi is here is a good sign that we might see it soon.
Onna Nakase おんな泣かせJunmai Daiginjo
Shizuoka Prefecture
Seimaibuai: 50% Rice: Gohyakumangoku (Shizuoka) Yamadanishiki (Hyogo)

The Mid-winter Plum of Niigata…

Niigata sake. Who doesn’t like Niigata sake? I mean really.

If you didn’t know already, Niigata is pounding out some of the best and most consistent sake around. Located on the Western Coast of Japan’s main island, Niigata’s climate is perfectly suited to sake brewing with very cool winters and a widely envied supply of crisp, pure water that trickles from the snow-capped mountains to the underground well supply.
A sake I still don’t know much about but enjoyed tremendously from Niigata is Koshi no Kanchubai (Mid-winter Plum of Niigata). This particular one is a Ginjo Nama (unpasteurized). Namazake gives a fantastic bright zippiness to the sake which makes it great for summer and gives a lively vibe you don’t always get from pasteurized sake.

This Koshi no Kanchubai has all that fresh nama zip and a refreshing yeasty aroma driven by strawberries and melon. Mild acidity and a nice weight balance it out very nicely. A good solid textbook nama rich with umami that would’ve been great with some scallops but alas I have none, so I just drank it on its own. Lonely, but delish! Sake from Niigata, you rarely go wrong.

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Sake and Cheese? No whey!

It seems everywhere you look these days someone is talking about matching food and booze. Wine dinners, beer dinners, whiskey dinners; matching a few courses of gourmet cuisine with the chosen beverage to show off the versatility of food and drink matching. Having been to a few of these I have to admit one of the things I have never understood is something I call the “forced match”. This is where the wine or beer is matched to a dish that it just isn’t suited to in an attempt to show there are “no boundaries!” I’m all for being open-minded but sometimes you just gotta let go and accept that some matches aren’t meant to be. Red wine and Indian food, beer and sushi (yes, I mean it!) are a couple of examples but the most common one I see is wine and cheese. Sure, eating cheese with wine offers the feeling of sophistication and there are some great matches particularly with dessert wines and fortifieds, but in many cases it just doesn’t “go”. Step in sake! Despite cheese not having a long or traditional place in Japanese cuisine it has definitely been embraced by chefs and restaurants. Some would suggest it is the umami in cheese that appeals to the Japanese palate. Regardless, it is arguably the presence of umami in cheese that suits it so well to sake.
If I can find the discipline I hope to do a few posts over the next few weeks exploring the sake and cheese combo starting today with Tamanohikari Junmai Ginjo Yamahai  (Kyoto) and some simple Jindi Reserve Washed Rind cheese.

But first, a tangent…Yamahai sake is basically one the old schools of sake brewing. As mentioned in a previous post the original brewing method was Kimoto where the rice, koji, water and yeast would be stirred and pounded into a puree to get the fermentation enzymes active. However in 1909 it was discovered that all that stirring and pounding wasn’t necessary and the moto (mash) would ferment on its own with just a slight increase in water temperature. This method relies on naturally occurring lactic acid to find its way into the mash and take out any unwanted micro-organisms and bacteria. This style of sake produces a flavour profile similar but not the same as Kimoto. High acidity is a common thread but Yamahai tends to be much more funky and gamey.

Back to the cheese. While this particular cheese is not overly pungent like some washed rind cheese can be, it does have the funk. The milder acidity of sake compared to wine helps it melt in with the soft cheese rather than cut through it and those gamey, earthy flavours in both the cheese and the sake line up perfectly. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, sake and cheese is the best match you’ve never tried!
Tama no Hikari Junmai Ginjo Yamahai
Kyoto, Seimaibuai: 60%
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Kozaemon

Like wineries and beer breweries, not all sake breweries (sakagura) are the same. You’ve got big conglomerates churning out millions of litres of product all year round, medium-sized breweries that make enough to cover Japan and a few exports and tiny ones that only make enough for the locals. What always amazes me though, is how some can appear quite small but still turn out quite a bit of sake. Kozaemon is such a brewery.
Located in Gifu Prefecture in central Japan, Kozaemon has quite a history as a 300 year old brewery founded in 1702. And these days they’re garnering a bit of attention as a forward thinking brewery both in Japan and abroad.

One of the things I love about Kozaemon is they are the kind of brewery that has a go at everything. Some breweries have the portfolio of a few sakes and they brew with little change to the portfolio year in year out. Kozaemon makes (in varying quantities) just about anything you’d care to try. Whether it be using different rice varieties, grades, yeast strains, brewing methods, namazake, aged they seem to find time to have a go at everything. And there’s only a team of three in the brewery! To me, when a brewery spreads their wings and tries different things it shows passion and it’d be fair to say Kozaemon are a passionate brewery. One thing of which they are proud is their relationship with their rice farmers. Many breweries buy sake rice from large co-op’s and have to make do with what they get. Kozaemon have contracted growers all over Japan and know exactly where their rice is coming from and how it is being grown. Of course you can’t get everything they have to offer here in Australia but of all the sake brands available in Australia they have arguably the largest range here thanks to their listing as the “house sake” for the Sake Restaurant group in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. Whether you want to try their daiginjo, junmai, honjozo, yamahai…they’re all there.

Not available retail sadly but if you’re lucky you might find their sake in other restaurants too so keep an eye out.
Kozaemon Junmai Ginjo Bizen Omachi
Seimaibuai: 55%
Rice Variety: Omachi
Upfront ginjo-ka (ginjo-esque aromas) of candied florals with hints of peach and boiled lollies. Quite settled, I’m not sure but I believe this may be slightly matured before release. I find Omachi to be the most easily recognisable rice variety, bearing in mind rice varieties are not as obvious as wine grape varieties. Omachi is often full, and savoury with some chestnut flavours in the finish-just like this guy. A full, opulent sake with moreish umami,  would be a great match to slightly meatier fish dishes.

Three Shades of Ageing

In the wine world one of things that defines a great wine is its ability to age well; to morph into a wine of great depth and new character. The wines that attract the highest prices are invariably wines with great ability to age.
Not so much in the world of sake. Although sake can age to a degree and can be interesting, it isn’t really what it’s all about. The market for aged sake (called jukusei shu or koshu) is very, very small in Japan. The interest for it in western countries far exceeds the interest for it in Japan. It’s probably fair to say that this stems from the wine culture of countries like Australia, the UK and the USA. Sommeliers of high-end restaurants are often the ones setting the trends for the rest of us so it’s not surprising that when it comes to sake, one of the things they are most interested in is the ageing potential.

Today I’ve got three very different sake that show three very different results of ageing and also show perhaps how ageing sake can be somewhat inconsistent and unpredictable.

Firstly from Hiroshima the highly regarded Taketsuru’s Aigamo Nohoumai Junmai. Aigamo Nouhou is a style of rice cultivation used by some farmers where a particular breed of duck (known as aigamo) are introduced into the rice fields to live for the harvest. The ducks live a good life in the watery rice fields eating all the pests and insects meaning chemicals and pesticides are mostly unnecessary.
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After the harvest the ducks are rewarded for their hard work by being eaten.

Brewed in 2005, this sake is usually held back by the brewery for about five years. So it is definitely older than most sake you’d come across. To say this sake is a little unusual would be a mild understatement. Firstly it throws quite a bit of sediment. This is not the chunky rice solids we get in nigorizake, but grit and yeast cells that haven’t been fine filtered out that form and fall to the bottom of the bottle. No effect on flavour but not real pretty. Already showing some serious golden colour for its (relatively) young age, aromas of musty cheese, some fino sherry, a bit of almond and hints of vinegar. Probably not the kind of aromas you’d look for in a fine wine. On the palate it is quite upfront and robust with almost tannic like dryness and some tight acidity still holding it together nicely, but the musty vibe would turn a few people off I think. Call me crazy but I would recommend this sake with Chinese food rather than Japanese food. Also worth noting this sake was underwhelming chilled, not bad at room temperature and spot on warmed. I find most aged sake lean towards room temperature or warmed, but it’s always up to whatever works for you.

Next up is Hyaku Rakumon Junmai Koshu from the ancient Japanese capital, Nara. Brewed in 1992, this is getting older than a lot of wines can manage to reach. Another Junmai and again unfiltered but no sediment this time. Definitely richer in colour now but you probably wouldn’t guess there’d be 13 years between them. Aromas of honey and nuts (Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes!) and some florals all suggesting a sweeter flavour perhaps. And it is. A softer, rounded sweet mouthfeel with some nutty astringency pulling it back from sweetness overload. A really pleasant sake. This time I found room temperature showed this sake at it’s best.

Finally for something completely different, Ouroku’s Kohaku no Shizuku, brewed in 1994 from Shimane prefecture. Now, you’d expect this to be around the ball-park of the Hyaku Rakumon with only two years separating them but take a look at this fella! Really shows how aged sake can go very different routes. Almost like soy sauce in appearance (and aroma!) with some ruby edges, the rich viscosity of the sake becomes apparent as it clings to the side of the glass. Aromas of cinnamon, burnt caramel, toast and raisins, somewhat reminiscent of Pedro Ximenex sherry. Drunk chilled it shows dessert wine-like sweetness on the palate, rich and decadent. Honestly, you’d never guess this was made from rice, really quite extraordinary.  And to test the PX comparison I couldn’t resist pouring some over ice-cream and it worked like magic!

The bad news is only the first sake, Taketsuru is available in Australia.
Now, you can’t expect to grab a bottle of sake throw it in the cellar for twenty years and expect it to turn ourn like PX sherry, it just aint gonna happen. It all comes down to what the brewer was trying to do. All of these sake were bought recently, I didn’t age them myself. Which is why if you are interested in aged sake it’s best to pick up sake that has been pre-aged. The brewer will know when it’s ready. At the end of the day aged sake can be a cool thing but like a box of chocolates you never know what you’re gonna get. I’m sure that’s what Forrest Gump was talking about.

Nude Sake

A rather suggestive title for today’s post maybe and one that’s probably best not to google.

So what am I referring to? Well, sake goes through a few processes once the fermentation and pressing has taken place. The sake is usually charcoal (or carbon) filtered, pasteurized, diluted with water and pasteurized again. But increasingly popular is a style known as Muroka (無濾過) Nama (生) Genshu (原酒). Translating to unfiltered, unpasteurized, undiluted, it could be said this is sake in it’s pure unadulterated form.

Firstly, the unfiltered part refers to the fine filtering process not the pressing stage where the liquid is separated from the chunky bits that give us cloudy sake (nigorizake). When sake is fine filtered it cleans the sake up giving it it’s clear, pristine appearance. While this pretties the sake up, it also removes a bit of flavour. Again, when sake is pasteurized it is heated up to kill any bacteria or organisms that have survived the fermentation process. But again some flavour will also be sacrificed as collateral damage for a pure stable sake. Finally, when the sake is cut with water to reduce the alcohol content, the flavour will be thinned out somewhat. Now, saying all this probably provides a good argument for running out and grabbing all the muroka nama genshu you can find. After all, this is the real sake – untouched! True, but it’s important to remember these processes are done for a reason. As much as Muroka Nama Genshu  sake can be bright, fresh and upfront with lots of punch and flavour they can also be a bit over the top at times.

I love a good namazake; great as an aperitif; fruity, vibrant and fantastic with fresh seafood in summer. For some the yeasty pungency that can sometimes be present can be a bit off-putting, a little reminiscent of the smell of white rind cheese. The other problem with unpasteurized sake is storage. In its unpasteurized state the sake can be volatile. If not kept at cool temperatures to stunt any activity from any organisms still not completely dead from the fermentation process secondary fermentation could occur or just throw the whole sake flavour profile off kilter leaving you with a stinky, pungent sake that won’t be particularly pleasant.

Genshu is a fairly niche market. Again, the reason most brewers dilute a sake down is to balance out the flavours. So if a sake is not cut with water as in the case of Genshu it can sometimes be a bit boozey or hot. Then again, a skilled brewer can sometimes bring the ferment to such a good balance that the alcohol level doesn’t creep to high and dilution isn’t necessary. So even though the sake may sit around the standard level of 16%ABV it is actually Genshu. However in these cases it often won’t be advertised on the label. More often that not, if it says Genshu on the label it is higher than normal in alcohol (19-20% or so) and they want you to know it.

All of this gibber jabber brings us to Mutemuka and their Nama Genshu. Hailing from Kochi Prefecture (a personal fave) these guys are one of only a handful of certified organic sake breweries. Given the hassles involved with shipping namazake refrigerated we don’t see a whole lot of them here in Australia but Sydney importers Black Market Sake have quite a few and I was happy to see this one in good condition.
Coming in at 18%ABV this isn’t the highest of the high-octane genshu mentioned above but it’s up there and interestingly doesn’t mention anywhere on the Japanese label that it is in fact a Genshu.
Mutemuka Muroka Nama Genshu 18°
Kochi Prefecture. Seimaibuai 60% for the Koji and 70% for the kakemai (added rice).
Like many namazake it has definite yeasty characters on the nose and hints of strawberries and cream with some nice cocoa powder in the background that comes to the front more as it warms. Quite full-bodied and rich in flavour as you’d expect the alcohol is nicely in check. An umami-rich, bold sake that will please those looking for a sake to jump out at them rather than some of the more subtle styles. Good to see some quality namazake making it to our shores.
Not found in Queensland as far as I know but keep an eye out for it in Sydney and Melbourne restaurants and even a couple of bottle shops like Annandale Cellars. Not cheap though at about $80.

Sake Day

So, it’s a bit late but Monday October 1st was Sake Day, or Nihonshu no Hi as it would be called in Japan.
Why October 1st? Well, there are a couple of reasons and uber sake sensei John Gauntner covers them concisely in his blog so I’ll leave the explanation to him. For me, I like the reasoning that October 1st marks the beginning of the new brewing season. Rice has been harvested, breweries spring cleaned, machinery oiled and polished all ready for “go time” so we can all look forward to our favourite rice brew.

It was in fact the Japan Sake and Shochu Brewers Association that picked the day in 1978 so it’s still a relatively recent addition to the calendar and it isn’t widely recognized outside of the sake world…yet. Obviously here in Australia it goes by with even less of a kerfuffle and I feel a pinge of guilt for not doing anything in particular myself this year other than have a quiet drink.

But as they say; there’s always next year. Hope you enjoyed a glass on Sake Day. But if you didn’t, don’t worry you should never need an excuse to enjoy sake all year round!