Chris’ Sake Corner – ♫♪ Hit Junmai! ♫♪
Greetings Fans and Connoisseurs,
Chris here, back at it with another "Chris' Corner" for the World Famous True Sake Newsletter.
This time around, I'll be talking about Junmai sake. This is clearly a very broad topic, but definitely worth discussing. Junmai essentially means "all natural", just rice, water, yeast, and koji. No added alcohol.
I often get customers coming in saying that they, "... love Junmai sakes." Usually when I hear this, I want to dig a little deeper to see if it's really Junmai sakes that they really love. I usually ask the customer where they normally drink sake. If they say "omakase" or "sushi restaurants", then I can deduce that the customer had a Junmai Daiginjo and that they're simply abbreviating the term. I always like to clarify and make sure the customer gets the sake they want.
The Junmai category has exploded recently. John Gauntner Sensei just recently shared info that Junmai styles are on the rise, including Junmai Ginjo and Junmai Daiginjo. Honjozo styles, including Ginjo and Daiginjo styles are on the decline. There's this perception out there that adding alcohol makes sake taste boozier, or stronger, which is not entirely true either.
Nevertheless, the topic at hand is Junmai. The classic "Old Man Junmai" still exists, but there are new Junmai styles on the rise. Here are my ♫ Top Five Hit Junmais ♫ to look out for in the month of August:
Heiwa Shuzo KID Junmai "Agara 80" - Heiwa Shuzo uses Yamadanishiki rice grown literally outside of the brewery. Most breweries are fetching their Yamadanishiki from Hyogo, but Heiwa Shuzo wants to keep it local and use Wakayama grown Yamadanishiki, which I think is awesome. Milled to 80 percent remaining, very elegant and very smooth. This is the "classic old man Junmai" with a Heiwa Shuzo twist.
Fukumimi Junmai Genshu - A True Sake Selection! This Junmai hails from Nagano and has got that classic bold signature Nagano style. Rum raisin and apple pie all day! Great at all three temperatures: chilled, room temp, or warm! I prefer this room temp personally. Genshu means "no water added", so this is definitely on the bolder side. We're clearly fans of this sake since we put our seal of approval on the back label. A True Sake Selection, for sure! More TSS bottles coming soon, so stay tuned!
Kumaya Shuzo AN Tokubetsu Junmai "Bizen Omachi" - Of course, I was going to find a way to sneak in an Omachi sake. Technically this is "Tokubetsu", which means "special", which means the rice has to be polished to at least 60%, among other things. Made with "Bizen Omachi" rice, aka where the best Omachi rice is grown, this is a fantastic expression of arguably one of the more popular sake rice varietals. Best chilled, and chilled only! Shout out to Eduardo Dingler aka Napa's favorite son for introducing me to this fantastic sake.
Azumaichi Junmai "Eastern Legend" - An awesome Junmai expression from Saga Prefecture. Saga is typically known for that rich style, and this sake is no exception. A very complex Junmai for the sake thinkers out there. Vegetal flavor tones with a nice peppery finish. I first had Azumachi in Los Angeles at Ototo (James Beard winner, btw), and I instantly became a fan.
Hatsusakura Junmai "First Love" 2021 - A true hidden gem in the shop. Hailing from Shiga Prefecture, and great friends with Matsuse Shuzo (makers of Matsunotsukasa). Definitely one of the more unique Junmais out there. Apples all day every day. A nice bright flavor profile that I would pair with the world famous Roasted Chicken at Zuni Cafe right here in SF. A boundary pushing sake that is unique and very different from what you think a Junmai sake should taste like.
That's my time! Thanks for reading the newsletter and come say hi if you see me in the shop!