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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Kubota Shuzō – Fukukoma – Junmai Ginjō Nama Genshu

Kubota Shuzō – Fukukoma –  Junmai Ginjō Nama Genshu

Kubota Shuzō – Fukukoma –  Junmai Ginjō Nama Genshu   Summary: A well-balanced, morish, exciting sake that surprises with its savoury finish. Unpasteurised, so get it while you can. Seimaibuai: 55%, Acohol: 16.9% Price: $43.45 online for 720 ml bottle. Score – 9/10 grains Details: This is such a well-balanced sake. Straight out of a chilled bottle, it begins with a delicate floral fragrance. Suddenly, more pungent ricey, yeasty notes filter through. On the palate, it has upfront sweetness, which flows into spicy berries, dark chocolate, a hit of spiciness and, finally, a smooth finish with loads of umami. What’s umami, you ask? Umami is a Japanese word for the fifth taste, the savoury, satisfying character of a dish. Think aged cheddar, truffles, black caviar. Once you pay attention to umami, it’s instantly recognisable. Fukukoma has plenty of umami in its body, which makes you crave one sip after another. It is brilliant paired with hot-smoked fish, pungent, aged cheeses, and beer snacks like jerky and dried squid. The best thing about this sake, however, is the harmony between all its flavour elements – sweetness, umami, unpasteurised zing and acidity. A very well thought out brew and worth seeking out.  Remember, it is unpasteurised and might not always be available. Technical Notes: Nama sake – or namazake –  requires extra care,  but compensates in liveliness of taste. It should always be refrigerated. “Genshu” means it has not been diluted with water, which, in this case, makes it slightly more...

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Chikuma Nishiki – “Kizan Sanban’ Junmai Ginjō

Chikuma Nishiki – “Kizan Sanban’ Junmai Ginjō

Chikuma Nishiki – “Kizan Sanban’ Junmai Ginjō Nama Genshu Summary: Sake that has refined boldness balancing beautiful flavour. A rare opportunity to enjoy unpasteurised sake. Seimaibuai: 55%, Acohol: 15% Price: Spotted for $75/720 ml online, but try buying directly from a store – nama sake must be kept refrigerated. Score -8/10 grains Details: Another bestselling Black Market Sake import,  “Kizan Sanban” Junmai Ginjo is unpasteurised, undiluted sake from Chikuma Nishiki, a brewery from Nagano, smack bang in the middle of Japanese Alps.  The brewery capitalises on its mountainous location, delivering sake with clarity and refinement that matches the crystal clear waters of the Chikuma Rriver, the source of water used in brewing of this sake. Kizan Sanban sake has a restrained nose with hints of umami-rich mushrooms, but follows with an intoxicating fruit explosion on the palate, all balanced with refreshing acidity.  It has just the right amount of complexity and body to translate the wildly enjoyable drinking experience into a sophisticated affair. Kizan Sanban will go beautifully with seafood, anything from sashimi to caviar. Enjoy chilled. Technical notes: “Nama” means unpasteurised. Nama sake – or namazake –  requires extra care,  but compensates with liveliness of taste. “Genshu” means it has not been diluted with water. Normally, that results in higher alcohol content. During Kizan Sanban’s production, however, fermentation is stopped early, resulting in higher sugar and lower alcohol...

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