The charm of sake is that it shows various faces according to what delicacies it’s combined with, its temperature, and the differences in the vessel in which it is served. The harmonizing elegance it displays while bringing out the strengths of its partner foods is its distinctive characteristic.
While enjoying the “gentle tipsiness” unique to sake, how about we search for your preferred flavor?
“Marriage, Drinks with the Family” is a section where Yoko Suginami, a sake specialist who has visited over 10 thousand restaurants both in Japan and abroad, introduces various local Seto Inland Sea region sakes and what are in her view the best foods to go with them.
Called Gokyo junmai-shu, today’s sake is a product of Yamaguchi prefecture’s Sakai Brewery.
In addition to the 4 main elements included in Japanese sake, 1) fragrance rate 2) umami rate 3) acidity rate 4) sweetness rate, the graph expresses the rate of locality (Setouchi rate) which I added to express how locally the rice and yeast utilized is sourced.
The Sakai Brewery is located nearby Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni city, Yamaguchi prefecture.
The water used in Gokyo is the soft water from Yamaguchi prefecture’s largest clear stream, Nishiki River. The smoothness and strong fragrance that are Gokyo’s special features are said to be the blessings of Nishiki River.
Also, in terms of its terroir*, it’s a well thought out sake made with 100% locally grown rice.
*Terroir refers to ‘regionality’, which includes among other factors consideration of the climate – one of the most important elements when considering any sake.
One point sake jargon
As this sake is a junmai-shu (*2) as well as having a 60% milled rice ratio (seimaibuai), it is a good full-flavored sake with a rice sweetness that spreads faintly. The flavor as a whole leaves a refreshing, soft impression.
Seimaibuai: A number that expresses to what extent the rice, the main sake ingredient, has been milled.
For example, when the ratio is 60%, this means that 40% of the rice has been milled and the ratio of rice left is 60%.
Junmai-shu: Sake made only from rice, rice-malt, yeast and water.
Marriage with food
Rather than pairing it with strong-flavored dishes, this sake works better with simple, gentle flavors. This time I coupled it with carpaccio-style red turnip (in season during winter in Japan). I sliced and arranged it carpaccio-style using herb-salt, olive oil and fresh pepper. For color and accent, I garnished it with mizuna and tomato.
In general I try to make fresh arrangements using the vegetables’ natural flavor, but matching ‘refreshing with refreshing’ personally tires me a bit of the flavor, so I use the deep flavor of olive oil to bind the two together, as well as just the right amount of additions to give a bit of nonchalant liveliness to dishes.
For a refreshing sake, as the partner is a cold dish, we recommend serving it cold.
Choosing the drinking vessel
The three points we considered when choosing this particular vessel:
1. While enjoying the fragrance, we want to allow the flavor to reach the whole mouth starting from the tip of the tongue.
2. We want to pair it with western-style food.
3. We want to keep the sake temperature as cold as possible.
Thinking from these 3 perspectives, we chose wineglass style drinking vessels.
Their light green color feels fresh and they sparkle when you pour in sake – they’re really beautiful glasses.
Produced by Hagi Glass Art Studio in Hagi city, Yamaguchi prefecture, they’re glasses that make you happy just by looking at them.
“Well then, let’s try it!”
In response to the crunchy texture of the red turnip and the ingredients’ natural gentle sweetness, Gokyo junmai-shu further enhances that gentle flavor. It is interesting how it amplifies the sweetness. In a match that compliments each other’s good sides, the flavor changes into a satisfying dish.
How about a trip to the Seto Inland Sea area to enjoy sake?
By searching for your preferred sake and delicious snacks, and choosing a wonderful vessel to drink from, you will certainly find new sake flavors while increasing your appreciation of this wonderful beverage.
http://www.gokyo-sake.co.jp/ (in Japanese)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writers: Makoto Esaki & Yoko Suginami (Rainbow Sake Co., Ltd.)
Yoko Suganami Rainbow Sake, Inc. After an extended stay in Hawaii, in 2011, I returned to my hometown of Kure, Hiroshima. Having worked at advertising companies in both Japan and Hawaii, I founded Rainbow Sake - a PR company with the goal of spreading Sake abroad. I hope that sake will ""bring the people of the world together"" and that I can be a part of that. I often travel abroad, and mostly to Hawaii and Singapore. Every time I come back home, I rediscover the beauty of my hometown and the happiness the easygoing, calm, fresh and simple sea and mountains of Setouchi bring.
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