Discover Gifu Sake: A Premium Sake Tasting; New York, 2016
Reported by Annalisa Chamberlin for advicesisters.com
Gifu(岐阜市 Gifu-shi?) is a city located in the south-central portion of Gifu Prefecture, Japan, and serves as the prefectural capital. Because Gifu has vast, arable plains, agriculture is also a major industry. The forests in the north provide materials for woodworking and for the viewing boats used in cormorant fishing. Sake is often brewed with clear water from the rivers.
At an event curated by Emi Murakami and hosted by Astor Wines & Spirits (399 Lafayette St, NYC) I had an opportunity to try twenty-seven kinds of sake from twelve breweries.
Sake is so intrinsically tied to Japan and Japanese culture and all of these breweries take great pride in brewing sake from the finest strains of Hidahomare rice grown in the Gifu Prefecture and from pristine mountain waters flowing down into the valley from the surrounding Northern Alps, Haku, Ibuki and Ena Mountains.
Each brewery seems to be engaged in an act of artistry; the sacred pursuit of creating beauty, joy and thoughtfulness by quietly inspiring the senses and the soul.
Of the many loving offerings of the day, here are few of the sakes I tasted that made a particular impression:
Kuramoto-Yamada Brewery from Yaotsu
One of my personal favorites is a sake made by Kuramoto-Yamada Brewery in the town of Yaotsu where they take pride in brewing sake with water drawn from their own well. In fact, the location on which the brewery is built was once called Tamai, a name that was derived from the term “tama-no-ido”, or “a precious well”.
Of their three featured junmai sake, two of which are award-winning, I most enjoyed the Tokubetsu Junmai Mukashino-Manma: with a subtle sourness, enhancing the savory notes of the Hidahomare rice, and minimally filtered, producing a beautiful hint of yellow.
Iwamura Brewery from Ena
Iwamura Brewery is a charming brewery from the town of Ena, situated just below Iwamura Castle. Like many traditional sake breweries, they believe in using locally grown rice and local water, but this did not keep them from offering a delightful and unusual Ginjo sake,
Iwamura Brewery, like any traditional sake breweries, believe in using locally grown rice and local water, but this did not keep them from offering a delightful and unusual Ginjo sake, La Châtelaine Yuzu.
Made with locally grown yuzu citrus, this Ginjo sake is extremely smooth in texture and has a refreshingly bright flavor, not unlike the experience of plucking a juicy, sun-ripened citrus fruit right off of a tree and popping it into one’s mouth.
Tenryou Sake Brewing Co. from Gero
Another standout in the world of junmai sake is the Tenryo Hidahomare Junmai Ginjo.
Established in 1680 near the famous hot springs of Gero, this brewery uses ultra soft local water to coax delicate flavors out of Hidahomare premium sake rice and their in-house yeast.
The result is a very elegant bouquet, with a suggestion of melon, and a crisp finish.
The Junmai Daiginjo Tenryo Koshu offers a more withdrawn bouquet. The lees are pressed and then carefully aged in bottles for 3 years, attributing to a sake that is moderately dry, with an afterthought of sweet rice.
Perhaps it is the pure waters from the Nagara River, officially among the ‘100 remarkable waters in Japan’, or the practice of brewing sake in small quantities to maintain quality control that makes Nihon-Izumi Brewery a brewery in high demand.
Perhaps I am not the only one with a taste for unpasteurized junmai ginjo. Whatever the combination of pure local water, polishing technique and attention to quality, the sake made by this brewery becomes an instant favorite.
The Muroka Nama Genshu Funakuchi-tori is unfiltered, unpasteurized, and undiluted, painstakingly crafted by pressing the sake mash in wooden tanks.
The result is a very mellow flavor with a surprisingly fruity bouquet that stimulates the senses, pairing well with oily fish and creamier cheeses.
Miwa Shuzo Co. from Ogaki
Shirakawago Junmai Nigori Sake was first brewed upon the Sirakawa Village mayor’s special request for an unfiltered sake to celebrate their annual festival.
Decades later it has become very popular on domestic and international markets.
Miwa Shuzo’s Shirakawago Sasa-Nigori, lightly cloudy and brewed with a hint of fermented Ginjo mash, is best enjoyed paired with food, in order to release the rich flavor of rice and smooth finish.
The Shirakawago Awa-Nigori is a pleasant surprise for nigorizake fans, as it is both a cloudy and sparkling sake. In-bottle fermentation technique produces a mellow flavor, with a brief bitterness that quickly warms and melts into a satisfying finish.
Both the Sasa-Nigori and the Awa-Nigori are far less sweet than your traditional cloudy sake, making them ideal for food pairings and an obvious choice for a refreshing and indulgent dining experience.