Dewazakura Daiginjō Yamada Nishiki 48

Dewazakura Daiginjō Yamada Nishiki 48

Dewazakura –  Yamada Nishiki 48 – Daiginjō     Summary: Everything one would expect from a daiginjō – fragrant, delicate, elegant. Seimaibuai: 48%,  SMV +6, Acidity 1.2, Acohol: 15.7% Rice: Yamada Nishiki Prefecture Yamagata Price:  $63 – $80 online. Score – 9/10 grains Details: I’d like to put this sake into perspective.  I promise you, once you know the backstory, you will want to drink it. Its brewer, Dewazakura, was established in 1892, and is headed by the 4th generation owner, Mr Masumi Nakano. An old, family-run sakagura, as traditional as it gets. But Dewazakura is known as a pioneer and innovator. They say sake has never been good as it is today. Sake brewing is a 1300 year old craft, but the technological advances that helped refine sake happened only over the last century. First of all, modern rice milling machines made possible for rice grains to be highly polished, yet undamaged. Modern microbiology helped isolate fragrant sake yeasts.  Highly polished rice and special sake yeasts are the two necessary building blocks of a refined, fragrant sake, and by 1930s the brewers could produce sake of the ginjō standard. Yet, noone was brewing it commercially, as ginjō brewing was very labour-intensive, and raw materials expensive. Toji would brew ginjō for sake competitions, and view it as a medium to practise and show off their technical skills. The industry opinion was that the drinking public would never pay good money to drink premium ginjō, as everyone was happily slurping mass-produced sake, generously diluted with ethyl alcohol. Meanwhile, sake consumption peaked in the early 1970, and the fortunes of many sake breweries took a turn for the worse. What to do? Brew less, discount more? Imagine the shock when, in 1981,  Dewazakura released the first ginjō for the mass market.  Named “Oka,” it had a seimaibuai of 50% and a friendly price tag. Unlike most of the cloyingly sweet sake available on the market at that time, it was light, elegant and had a beautiful floral aroma. It was a true revolution in sake, and it launched the ginjō boom of the 1980s (a trend that is still continuing. Ginjō consumption keeps growing). Oka, by the way, still sells, and still wins gold medals in sake competitions. Dewazakura went on to becoming one of the biggest sake brands, and made other significant contributions to the sake industry. It developed a new sake rice strain, Dewa 33, and isolated new sake yeasts. Most importantly, though, it has an amazing lineup of sake. The Dewazakura Daiginjō Yamada Nishiki 48, subject of this review, is another sake that drove the popularity of ginjō. It has a fruity fragrance of lychee and rockmelon, and shows some herbal, fresh notes on the palate. It is soft and flowing, ending in a long, elegant, somewhat dry finish. We...

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Dewazakura Seijo Karakuchi

Dewazakura Seijo Karakuchi

Dewazakura –  Seijo Karakuchi – futsuu-shu     Summary: As far as table sake goes, this is the cream of the crop. Seimaibuai: 65%,  SMV +7, Acidity 1.2, Acohol: 15.5% Rice: Haenuki (eating rice) Prefecture Yamagata Price:  From $40 online. Score – 7/10 grains Details: I haven’t said many good things about futsuu-shu, table sake, but I am ready to correct myself. I present you Seijo Karakuchi from Dewazakura, one of the most important brewers. Dewazakura was established in 1892, which, in human terms, makes it a 30-something high achiever. It is a leader in sake innovation, the pioneer of the fragrant ginjō style in the 198os, and developer of new yeast and rice strains. But, above all, it is known for its fragrant, mild, gorgeously scented sake. Seijo Karakuchi is the entry-level Dewazakura, non-premium table sake. It is made for easy drinking, an uncomplicated and inexpensive sake that will go with most dishes on the menu. It has a delicate herbal fragrance, light body, and clean and crisp finish. As far as table sake goes, it is as good as it gets. So, if this is so good, what is the point of paying for the premium sake, you ask? One thing you won’t find at the bottom of this cup is body and complexity. Seijo Karakuchi is thin, watery even, low impact. It is inoffensive, which makes it a great match for casual eating, but it won’t stop the conversation. Still, it is good sake, and sits at the affordable price point – a claim not many sakes in Australia can make! Once open, it will last in a fridge a little longer than a fragrant daiginjō, perhaps up to 2...

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Déjà Vu Sake Company – focus on subtle greatness

Déjà Vu Sake Company – focus on subtle greatness

Australian sake import scene is becoming a crowded space. Australia is far from being a large country, yet it is the world’s 9th biggest sake importer. A few local companies are now competing for your palates and wallets. There are the Japanese heavyweights Daiwa Food and JFC, the pioneers of artisanal brews Black Market Sake, and the believers of making sake accessible to all, Chef’s Armoury. Restaurants like Toko import their own exclusive range of  stellar sake. Then there is Deja Vu Sake Company, which has a relatively small portfolio of 5 brewers.  Headed by the charming  Yukino Ochiai and her husband Andrew Cameron, Déjà Vu Sake was established in 2012 to supplement their existing fine wine distribution business. Japanese-born Yukino wasted no time in bringing sake from some of the best sake houses. Yes, its portfolio is small, but mighty! Each of the 5 breweries they work with is a family business that has been brewing sake for generations. The youngest brewery is Amanato, whose history goes back almost a hundred years. Yoshinogawa, the oldest brewery in its lineup, is over 450 years old, and is currently headed by the 19th generation of owners. This month, Deja Vu Sake is hosting four distinguished guests, representatives of the breweries in their portfolio. Mr Masumi Nakano, president of Dewazakura, Mr Takeshi Sekiya, president of Sekiya brewery, Mr Naoki Yokoyama, the sales manager of Tengumai brewery and the marketing chief of Yoshinogawa brewery Hiroyuki Onozawa. As part of the interstate promotional tour, Yukino and her sake masters ran trade tastings and public dinners. I was lucky to attend one of them, meet the brewers and taste through the most of Deja Vu portfolio. I am now convinced that Deja Vu’s portfolio is one of the most focussed and precise. There is a certain conviction behind the brand line-up, and that conviction appeals to my own sake preferences. Sake flavours can run an incredible range.  Some sakes are tight, dry, some are high-impact, sweet, headily aromatic. For me, the sweet spot is sake that is elegant, clean sake without harsh dryness,  sake that brings to mind morning dew, raindrops, freshly cut grass and fragile wild flowers. I enjoy delicate, subtle greatness, and most of all, balance of flavours. I found all of that in Deja Vu sake. Here are the brews that impressed me the most.   Dewazakura Dewazakura was established in 1892, in Yamagata prefecture. Snow falls heavily in the mountain valley where Dewazakura is based, and provides ideal conditions for brewing ginjō. Dewazakura is one of the leading sake houses, and was responsible for the ginjō boom in Japan in early 1980s. Dewazakura has helped to develop the prefecture’s own sake rice, Dewa Sansan (Dewa 33), and developed special sake yeast to suit the climate.   Ichiro...

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