October 1st is World Sake Day and heralds the beginning of the sake making season in Japan. A wonderfully varied beverage with many styles, sake is a perfect way to toast the beginning of the autumnal season.
Sake is not an easy beverage to make, and there are many, many styles. What you should know is that the highest classification is Junmai which is pure and unadulterated, similar to what you want in a 100% blue agave tequila. You don’t get additional flavorings, colorings or alcohol added into the mix, which indicates a less than stellar product. Low end sakes are the ones served hot to cover up their inadequacies. Junmai Ginjo is made from rice that has been polished to such a high degree that it loses 45% of it’s outer covering, leaving only the heart of the rice. This is then fermented not only using yeast, but also a proprietary domesticated fungus called Koji (Aspergillus oryzae). Sounds weird, but this combination is so efficient at turning rice sugars into alcohol, that you end up with an initial alcohol level of 14-20%. So, kudos for fungus!
During the 19th Century, French travelers started to visit Japan, which had finally opened its doors to the West. A deep friendship blossomed between these two cultures known for their taste and sophistication, establishing a respectful and long-lasting complicity.
Heavensake sake is a reflection of this exchange. It is perhaps the first time a product has been jointly developed by both great Japanese masters and distinguished French creators. The world’s first Junmai Ginjo is blended by Régis Camus, cellar master of Piper-Heidsieck since 1994 and eight-time winner of the Sparkling Winemaker of the Year award, in collaboration with sake brewery Urakasumi,
Heavensake is made of rice, water and koji. It is three times less acidic than wine, gluten-free and contains no added sugars, sulphites or preservatives, the company says. The Junmai Ginjo is a blend of three types of rice all from the same prefecture, Miyagi-ken: Yamadanishiki, Toyonishiki and Kuranohana rice.
GSN recommends that you try this for your next celebration as a change of pace from champagne or wine. With Valentine’s Day coming up in a few weeks, make sure you order a bottle now.
HeavenSake (15% ABV)
Nose: Sweet apple and plum notes with a hint of salinity. Quite fresh and vibrant.
Taste: Exceptionally smooth, with a light tang of tropical fruit. As the flavors expand, there is a soft salted melon-like quality that keeps the palate clean.
Finish: Elegant and fairly short. The after effect is of a lightly peppered, low alcohol vodka.
Overall: Definitely one of the better sakes on the market. Each aspect is well-balanced and in concert with one another.
GSN Rating: A
For more information go to: Heavensake
Whenever I’m having sushi or sashimi, I’m always looking for a good bottle of sake to pair it with. It’s really the perfect companion, since sake itself is made from rice. Hiro is made from polished rice from the Niigata region of Japan and is based on a recipe from the reknowned samurai Hiroemon Takeda. This expression is designed to be served hot or at room temperature. I prefer the latter as it allows for the full expression of the character to come out.
This is an excellent entry-level sake, that has deservedly won several awards in the past few years.
Hiro Junmai Sake (30 proof)
Visual: Crystal clear.
Nose: Almost rose-like and with a spring rain freshness.
Taste: Light and delicate, with an interesting bitter creaminess. Some salinity.
Finish: Dry and bright with a lot of high notes. Crisp and refreshing.
Overall: Perfect for pairing with tuna or salmon sashimi. They will balance each other out.
GSN Rating: B+
For more information go to: Hirosake