Masuizumi – Junmai Ginjō

Masuizumi – Junmai Ginjō

Masuizumi –  Junmai Ginjō      Summary: Super-smooth, delectable sake that surprises with its fragrant, fruity prettiness. Geisha sake, indeed. Seimaibuai: 58%,  SMV +5, Acohol: 15.5% Prefecture Toyama Price:  At Masuya, $98 for 720 ml bottle, $17.50 for 120 ml glass. Score – 9/10 grains Details: Masuizumi sake has a few tales to tell. Masuda Shuzo brewery was established in 1893, in a port town Iwase in Toyama prefecture. Toyama runs along the Japan Sea coast, and is known for its fresh seafood. Once upon a time, Toyama hosted merchant ships rather than gourmet travellers. Iwase was a busy shipping port from the beginning of Edo era. Masuda Shuzo created the Masuizumi brand to meet the demand for a refined sake from the numerous local geisha. Masuizumi was an immediate success, and continues to be popular after more than a hundred years. Masuda Shuzo has a second claim to fame. It was the first brewery to brew ginjō  sake. Back in the mid 60s, hardly anyone was brewing junmai sake (made without addition of alcohol), let alone the type made with highly polished rice – ginjō . The president of the company Kazuyoshi Masuda was 22 and doing a graduate study of fermentation, when he had to take over the brewery after the death of his father. The tōji Kiichi, the master brewer, was young as well. At 18, he inherited the tōji position at Masuda from his father. The pair shared the relentless drive for innovation, and together set out on the journey of perfecting sake. The result has been truly remarkable. Masuizumi Junmai Ginjjō has a floral nose and a sweet, white grapes and mandarins palate. There is a barely perceptible dryness in the finish. Astonishingly smooth. It is a type of sake that needs no food to be savoured. Pour a large glass and find your inner...

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Nagaragawa – ‘Tenkawa’ – Muroka Nama Junmai Ginjō

Nagaragawa –  ‘Tenkawa’ –  Muroka Nama Junmai Ginjō

Nagaragawa –  ‘Tenkawa’ –  Muroka Nama Junmai Ginjō      Summary: The unpasteurised and unfiltered version of one of my favourites, but the nama zing is possibly not fully present due to the long time on the road. But is is fresh, fun, brash and too drinkable for anyone’s good. Seimaibuai: 55%,  Acidity 1.5, SMV +3, Amino Acids 1.6, Acohol: 15.8%,  Rice: Hida Homare, Yeast # 16. Prefecture: Gifu Price:  Online, about $36.45 for a 720 ml bottle. Score – 7.5/10 Details: It was hard to review this sake. I was really looking forward to opening this bottle. The orthodox version of Tenkawa is one of my favourite sake available here, in Australia. Full, complex, sweet and savoury.  I also love nama, unpasteurised sake, and the bubbly, effervescent zing that live enzymes inject into flavour. But Chef’s Armoury Sake Shop is in Melbourne, and the only way to deliver sake is with Australia Post trucks. 3 full days out of the fridge later, the sake feels a little too settled for nama, a little flat. I just feel something is supposed to be there, and it’s no longer is. Perhaps I am imagining things, and it was never meant to be that effervescent. All is not lost, however. Quite the opposite. The sake has a muted banana and rice fragrance and a full, sugar and umami – laden palate. Acidity is nearly overwhelming,  but it fits the fullness of flavour. It is a bit like underripe custard apple, sweet and creamy but astringent, too. The sweetness is reminiscent of canned pinapple. It is intense, young, brash and, despite its rough edges, very very drinkable. The sake has not been filtered with charcoal, but the colour is clear. To be honest, the filtered version is almost as full.   It is a lot of fun, but I need to try it fresh out of the fridge. Something for my next visit to the southern capital.      ...

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Moriki Shuzō – “Rumiko no Sake” – Junmai Ginjō Muroka Nama Genshu

Moriki Shuzō – “Rumiko no Sake” – Junmai Ginjō Muroka Nama Genshu

Moriki Shuzō – “Rumiko no Sake” – Junmai Ginjō Muroka Nama Genshu     Summary: Interesting brew, but too heavy and savoury for my liking. Seimaibuai: 60%,  Acohol: 17.3%,  Rice: Yamada Nishiki (for kōji) and Hattan Nishiki (for kakemai (steamed rice added to fermentation tanks), Yeast #6. Prefecture: Mie Price:  Varies by restaurant, also available through Annandale cellars, POA. Score – 5/10 grains Detailed Review: This sake is hugely popular on Australian restaurant scene. I think that wine sommeliers find a lot to hang on to, to mould onto the wine frame of reference with this sake, to be able to describe and sell it to a customer. For me, this is not where I find my joy of sake. It is certainly interesting, and a bit wine-like. My notes from last year say “mushroomy”, and when I got to try it again this year, I found the same freshly sliced mushrooms in the fragrance. There is a lot of umami in the fragrance and body, and it is no surprise given that it is unfiltered. It is also quite acidic and my drinking partner described it as “aggressive”. It is full on, and sake for me is about a slightly purer vision. I don’t feel particularly good critiquing harshly a sake which is clearly a labour of love – Moriki Shuzō is a small brewery, where the wife and husband team dedicate their lives to the craft as owner-tōji. It is unfiltered, undilluted and unpasteurised, quite an experimental kind of sake. It is a bit higher in alcohol, but not the full 20% as genshu can be. In its defence, I did drink it after a bottle of beautiful and clean Wakatake’s Onikoroshi, so perhaps that was the contrast. Don’t get discouraged, it is worth trying to discover the incredible spectrum of sake flavours.        ...

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Eikun – Koto Sen Nen – Junmai Ginjō

Eikun – Koto Sen Nen – Junmai Ginjō

Eikun –  ‘Koto Sen Nen’ –  Junmai Ginjō      Summary: Fruity and floral fragrance . Mildly sweet, green, elegant, with a dry finish. Kyoto courtesan with a sweet smile and acerbic tongue. Seimaibuai: 55%,  Acidity 1.3, SMV +3, Acohol: 15%,  Rice: Iwaimai (Kyoto rice strain). Prefecture: Kyoto Price:  Online, about $18.50 for a 300 ml bottle. Score – 9/10 grains Details: ‘Koto Sen Nen’ sake is brewed by the brewery known as Eikun, although officially named Saito Shuzō. The naming confusion is not exclusive to these guys. It is common for  a brewery to have an official company name and a brand name. Either way, Eikun is one of the finest brewers in one of the finest sake regions of Japan – the Fushimi district of Kyoto. Kyoto is next door to the birthplace of modern sake, Nara. In the late 7h century, Imperial Court established official sake brewing department and by 701 AD, the first brewing system was systematised and completed. When the court moved to Kyoto in 794, the sake brewing activity followed. Kyoto became the first epicentre of large-scale sake brewing (it remains second-biggest sake production area). Besides the legacy of the great sake history of Kyoto, Fishimi is distinguished by having access to spring water of exceptional quality. The water (and local tōji skills) produces elegant, not too sweet, soft sake, of so-called feminine style. ‘Koto Sen Nen’ sake is the epitome of Kyoto sake. What starts with a heady floral bouquet and mildly sweet upfront palate of green melon and grapes, briskly ends with acidic, spicy, dry persuasive tail. Soft sweetness, elegance, and great structure are all present. Delicious, complex, aromatic and a bit on the dry side. The lash of its tail makes me think it would benefit from a gentle warming up. It is surprisingly well-priced online, the sake of this pedigree and elegance doesn’t come at this price often in Australia. It’s sister Ichigin’ goes for more than double here. P.S. The name translates as “thousand-year old capital”      ...

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Wakatake – Onikoroshi – Junmai Ginjō

Wakatake – Onikoroshi – Junmai Ginjō

Wakatake –  Onikoroshi-  Junmai Ginjō    Summary: A highly drinkable, very balanced sake from Shizuoka. Shines with food. Seimaibuai: 55%,  Acidity 1.5, SMV +3, Acohol: 15.5% Price:  At Sydney Toko, one of the cheapest on the list, around $60. Score – 8/10 grains Details: I’ve named another sake from Oomuraya brewery, Onna Nakase, one of my top 5 favourite sakes. So naturally, I was quite curious about trying its “Demon Slayer”, Onikoroshi Junmai Ginjō. At Sydney Toko, it was brought out on a bed of ice (sigh of relief), and in tip-top condition. Onikoroshi started with a creamy mouthful, and finished crisp and dry. Its fine-grained, lingering sweetness became pronounced when paired with Japanese fusion food. A few floral notes unfurled to welcome salmon roasted in sweet miso. The sake was balanced, smooth, and just dry enough to be the perfect dining companion, drinkable and food-friendly. My love for Shizuoka prefecture brews got a little bit stronger that...

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