Sake Spotlight October 2005
For this month's "Sake Spotlight" I wanted to go to the source for one of my sakes. I wanted to ask a brewer the what and why's about his sake to get a professional opinion from the other side if you will.
Kazuo Matsuura is not only the owner of Matsuura Shuzo Brewery in Naruto Japan, but he knows more about sake than anybody that I have ever met. He holds a PHD in the science of brewing, and is an all around sake guru. But he is incredibly shy so getting him to do this is like pulling teeth.
I picked this sake as it is a good representative of an "elegant" sake, one that borders on the movements and functions of an elegant wine. It is extremely layered and I find that it performs best in a large red wine glass with a huge bowl. Perhaps this is on account that it has a robust acidity level and is a genshu or undiluted sake. (Most sakes have water added at the end of their brewing life to bring the alcohol percentage down to an average of about 15%, but Genshus are left in their natural undiluted state.)
I have been to this brewery and have seen the exact tanks used to ferment this wizard of a sake, and I will say that every time that I open a case of Narutotai I can smell the kura (brewery). Naruto is famous for Tai or Sea Bream or as we say Red Snapper and they use this fish as their logo for this sake as well as others from their kura. It is said that their sakes are made to go with Tai!
Now back to Maatsuura-san. When I first approached him by email to respond to my request to write down some of his thoughts about his Yamahai Ginjo Genshu he responded with the following:
|"By the way, your introduce to your Newsletter is fantastic trial for me. Of course it is very glad for me.Our Junmahai Ginjyo Yamahai is the best sake in our Kura. The sake produced for 25 days for main fermentation. After filtration, the fresh sake are aged for 6 months until the taste coordinate mellow harmony.Our policy to make sake is simple. That is ‘Fusion between tradition spirit and New trials'".|
(I took the liberty to change "flesh" sake to "fresh" sake so as not to confuse anybody.) For me this review is awesome on several levels, but one must read between the lines. When a brewer says that a sake is the "best" sake in the brewery it is like saying that one of your children is your favorite! I am surprised to read that he said best, and it makes me all the more aware of the fact that this sake represents their benchmark. You can also deduce that it takes 25 days to ferment and then they lay it down to mellow for about 6 months. Then they bottle it when they feel that the sake has reconfigured into a perfect feeling and flow, and when the flavor peaks. I like when he added his "simple" brewery policy as well, which means that they use traditional techniques but will also use modern methods to produce a perfect sake. Making sake is anything but simple. It is a white-nuckle roller coaster process where so many things can wrong at so many points. Thus integrating new processes and methods is all part of the "new trials" that makes their sake so damn good.
Herewith is my review of this wonderful sake:
|Narutotai Genshu "Red Snapper"Tokushima prefecture. Yamahai Junmai Ginjo Genshu. SMV: +4 Acidity: 1.5 This genshu (undiluted sake with 17% alcohol) has a subtle aroma profile that hints of damp wood, whipping cream and a tingle of licorice. It is a deep and rich sake that drinks thin even though it feels robust. With a layered acidity, it's a perfect genshu for pairing with largely flavored Western-style cuisines. Look for the red snapper on the label as this sake was constructed to pair perfectly with this fish. WORD: Deep WINE: Merlots/Soft Reds BEER: Pale Ales FOODS: Cooked fish, juicy game dishes, vegetable tempura, holiday turkey and ham.|