True Secrets – Is There a “Perfect” Sake?
I’ve been asked this question time and time again for the past 20 years, and my answer has always been the same – they are all perfect! Meaning that every sake is perfect for somebody. So yes, perfection is a word that can be reduced down to the notion that a sake can be perfect for a particular sake drinker at their particular time in their sake journey. It’s a big concept! It’s a big notion on a grand scale for judging sakes professionally. Has there ever been a Perfect “10” in the brewing industry like there has been in let’s say Olympic Gymnastics? Not really! Most sake judging competitions pick the best of that batch of best sakes. The International Wine Challenge has the Grand Champions Trophy for being the best representative sake of that competition, but is it “perfect?”
I’d say that most sake producers will tell you that they have never made a perfect sake. They are humble that way. They respect the concept of perfect too much. It would be wrong to say that they reached the ultimate state of making sake. In fact it’s an embarrassing subject matter. They blush at the concept. And they would shake their heads no no no if you asked them if they ever made a perfect sake. As it should be! But and yet the concept of perfect is out there. It exists, because we sometimes utter the words, “this sake is perfect.” Is it?
In 20 years I have done extensive write up reviews for about 2,000 sake. Never once in that time did I use the term perfect when describing a sake in one word. My reviews, which you most certainly know have a WORD, WINE, BEER, and FOODS attached to each one. And in all that time I have never used the word “Perfect” to describe one of the sakes that I reviewed. Until last year!
Last year, True Sake was the proud “exclusive” recipient of a sake that a friend sourced in Niigata that I thought was brilliant. I said that I would pony up the “minimum” amount of cases for the importer to register the label and bring it over. And for a year we sold the sake proudly. It is indeed superb. Recently I told the importer that she should release the sake to restaurants so more eyebrows could be raised in appreciation and fascination. True Sake is still the Exclusive retail home to Miroku from Kondo Shuzo in Niigata, but hopefully you have seen it out in a western or Japanese restaurant recently. It is prodigious.
Miroku is made lovingly to be a food pairing sake in the way some vintners make wines to go with certain cuisines. It is a perfect partner, but before I go there let me tell you why! The owner of Kondo Shuzo is a Francophile! He simply loves French wines and French foods. Loves them! So he went about trying to craft a sake that worked like a French wine that paired excellently with French fare. You will notice immediately that the Miroku bottle is 750ml rather than the typical 720ml sake size. This 750ml wine bottle sized-sake is also designed like a wine bottle in the sense that it has a very deep concaved bottom known in the wine world as a “punt.” It’s pretty damn cool looking and feeling, so much so it has a cork top with gold foil to keep the cork from touching the sake. (Gold is inert so it doesn’t draw flavor).
But what is on the inside of Miroku that is perfect if that is possible? The fluid itself is so unassuming. It is velvety, smooth, and soft! And you’d swear that it would get overwhelmed by large rich French flavors, but actually the opposite occurs. This soft sexy fluid becomes a monster of sorts that dances with rich and full-bodied flavors in a way that you’d never think possible. It’s like the best fitting and softest glove that ever went over your hand. Crazy! The point of the brew is the exciting aspect because it is a challenge of sorts. Kondo-san wanted to make a liquid in rice form that worked the way wine works with French cuisine. He basically felt that sake could be as good or better when taking all of the acidity and movement and balancing things together. And he nailed it! This unassuming sake dances perfectly with game, fowl, rowdy French inspired fare and basically all food types.
Upon further inspection of the label of Miroku you will notice a deer! That was the true epicenter of Kondo’s belief. If sake could pair with game, venison, etc as well as big French wines could then sake will have arrived! And I am standing here proudly to tell you that it does and indeed Miroku has arrived. It is a perfect sake. It is liquid wonderment, and a benchmark to the future of sake development. Miroku is as close to perfect sake as perfect can get! Here is my review:
From Niigata Prefecture. Junmai Daiginjo. SMV: +3 Acidity: 1.2
The nose on this world class sake that is made with Koshitenrei brewing rice milled to 40% and has been aged for two years is an amazing collection of caramel, butter, sweet rice, and nougat aromas. This is a once in a lifetime sake that is made by fanatics and drinks like the best dream ever. A magical sake that does so much with just a whisper and a lower alcohol percentage of 14.5%. Smooth, smooth, smooth and so rich it is like a velvet assassin that was sent to pair with French fare, game, and venison. Round and subtle with hints of crème brule, wafers, cereal, steamed rice, and rich nougat. It is so well balanced that you cannot tell where the sake ends and you begin. It is a perfect brew to show you how rice can take you beyond the distance of mere grapes. Miroku furthers the dining and drinking experience, and is the flag in the ground for the betterment of sake. WORD: Perfect WINE: Deep reds/Complex whites BEER: Big smooth Belgians FOODS: French fare, venison, fowl, foie gras, exotic and premium cuisines. $150/750ml
Miroku Proof In The Pairing!
I have told many local chefs about the pairing possibilities of Miroku, and to keep an eye out for menus featuring Venison. And voila just like that Chef Audie Golder from Jardinière pinged me and said that he had a great Venison Carpaccio dish that he was offering for the next month. Of course I went immediately to put Miroku through its paces.
The dish itself looked amazing! Pounded Venison with Sunchoke, Sunflower, Wickson Apple Aioli. And as expected the sake just rocked the pairing! I’m not one for excessive hyperbole (well sort of), but I can’t think of any other fluid alive that would work better than the Miroku did. Why? The pounded venison became very smooth and with the oil and aioli it was very creamy, and that is exactly how the sake drank – smooth and slightly creamy. It made a great “feeling” pairing. The acidity worked so well, and didn’t conflict or bump against the flavors of the venison. Truly a smooth operator pairing that was soft and gentle and really danced with the venison and other flavors. Great stuff!