True Rice - Drink Your Grains | True Sake
September 2010

True Rice - Drink Your Grains

Posted by Beau Timken in 2010, Newsletter, September
Rice Polishing Ratio Greens, grains and proteins! Or something like that! You must eat a balanced diet right? Well who said that you had to drink one? Bag the greens - ditch the fruits - scrub the proteins and stick with the grains people. Stick with the grains! And I'm not talking about wheat, barely or peanuts folks. Rice! Rice! Rice! Thrice the rice is nice! (Okay - a little punchy here as I just concluded a 5hr interview with the History Channel for a Modern Marvels episode that they are doing on RICE! - should air in Winter'10 or Spring'11 - the 5th episode of the series.)

Since I have rice on the brain I thought it would be a good time to get you guys thinking about this ummmmm very important "component" of the sake making process. You already know so much. You know that there are rice varietals of brewing rice very similar to grape varietals in the wine world. You know that there are roughly 100 registered varietals and about 60 are in use. Heck you even know that rice grows better in certain parts of the country (sound like grapes much?) that has hot days and cool nights. You definitely know that rice is made up of carbohydrates, fats, minerals, proteins, vitamins etc and that these are all milled away to get at the glorious starch. You still recall that sake brewing rice is twice as starchy as consumption rice. And how could you forget that they don't categorize sake by the rice varietal as they do in the wine world?

Well seeing that you don't forget anything about sake brewing rice including the fact that some varietals are ancient and have not been cross-bred. And considering the fact that you are fully aware that there are different grades of sake rice from AAA-AA-A in some cases to a four-tier system in other cases then it's about time to taste these specific rice varietals. So in short we have selected a sake or two for each of the major and non-major sake brewing rice varietals that you can sink your teeth into. Now please note, we could have named a ton of sakes per rice varietal, but instead we have selected the brews that really scream the fact that they use the certain sake brewing rice over others. (For example the name of the sake is the name of the rice varietal.)

The absolute best way to taste rice is via a series of sakes made by my brother with a Japanese mother Masao Aisawa-san from Takenotsuyu brewery in Yamagata who makes this point perfectly. Masao picks 6 different rice varietals and then makes 6 different sakes exactly the same with only the rice being the difference. Same water, same milling rate, same mold, same yeast, same equipment etc. Then and only than can you literally taste the sakes side by side to see how the rice affects the flavor, texture, and over-all drinking experience. Sadly, this series is not available in the US, but maybe, just maybe, he will bring this "sample" to Sake Day on October 1st. (Very worth exploring).

So herewith is a list of sakes that you should try if you would like to taste specific sake brewing rice varietals, and if you want other selections within the varietals space please let us know.

The rice varietals and the sakes that best represent in no particular order:
  • Kura No Hana - Hoyo "Kura No Hana" Junmai Daiginjo
  • Ginpu - Taisetsu Junmai Ginjo
  • Iwai - Shutendouji Maitaiken Junmai Ginjo
  • Omachi - Tamanohikari "Omachi" Junmai Daiginjo
  • Toyonishiki - Urakasumi "Zen" Junmai Ginjo
  • Dewasansan - Dewazakura "Dewasansan" Junmai Ginjo
  • Akita Komachi - Yukinobosha "Akitakomachi" Junmai Daiginjo
  • Miyamanishiki - Murai Tokubetsu Honjozo
  • Manamusume - Urakasumi Junmai
  • Goriki - Chiyomosubi "Goriki" Junmai Ginjo
  • Akitasuho - Suigei Tokubetsu Junmai
  • Sasanishiki - Urakasumi "Ki-Ippon" Junmai
  • Wataribune - Wataribune Shiboritate Nama Junmai Ginjo
  • Aichi no Kaori - Wakatake Junmai Daiginjo
  • Hanahabuki - Nishida "Denshu" Tokubetsu Junmai
  • Yamadanishiki - Tsukasabotan Junmai Daiginjo
  • Gohakyumangoku - Shimeharitsuru "Jun" Junmai Ginjo
  • Nojoho - Sawanoi "Kioke" Yamahai Junmai
  • Takanenishiki - Kiran Zan Junmai Daiginjo
  • Kame no O - (We sold out of the Kame no Ko - the ultra milled "14%" ultra Daiginjo)

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