PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING
As I mentioned in one of my earlier newsletters several months back, typhoons pounded Japan last year; 24 to 28 depending on whom you were speaking to and how much they had consumed. Nevertheless it was a horrible - and I mean absolutely awful - year for the sake rice farmers. Please recall that sake- brewing rice stands much taller than consumption rice, and as such strong winds play havoc on these top- heavy stalks of rice. Now that this brewing rice is in play, and being used the results are not as bad as perceived. I am happy to report that we need not beware the rice of March!
Not nearly as dramatic as grapes for wine, rice has its seasons - good and bad - as well. But when you really press a toji (master brewer) or a kuramoto (brewery owner) they can never really recall the great years, only the bad. I think the reason for this is that it is still possible to make good sake from average quality rice. They just have to work harder. And there are more steps available to make an improvement from a starch, unlike grapes, which are already glucose with little margin for error. I had a nice discussion with the owner of a brewery, who I consider the most knowledgeable sake guru that I have ever met, and he said that the rice this year was "okay'. When I asked him to expand on okay he said that roughly 30% of the rice that came his way was spoiled - presumably by the typhoons. I said that 30% sounded like a lot, and he said that because the rice was damaged does not mean it was unusable. Of course a lot of it is trashed, but even damaged rice can be tweaked was his point. Perhaps it doesn't mill as well or absorb as well, but tojis have generational old tricks to make sub par rice work. And that is why they don't really recall the good years, rather they remember the bad rice growing years as it makes them work harder and that is something that we all tend to recall more - working harder!