December 2005

Sake Spotlight – "Gassan"

Posted by admin in 2005, December, Newsletter, Sake Spotlight

This month I want to take a look at a Junmai Ginjo that recently made its way into my sake realm. On average distributors and brewers present me with 10-15 new sakes per month, and I must determine if they would make my customers stand up and take notice. I will speak more about this process in a future Newsletter, but for now I would like to "Spotlight" a sake that made the cut for a number of reasons.

To help me present this sake I have asked a fellow sake sommelier named Eric Swanson, who until last month, was the head sake director for the MGM Grand and more importantly for the restaurant Shibuya in Las Vegas. Eric lived in Japan for quite some time and is married to a gal (Yuno) who is also a sake sommelier. He now resides in NYC and is a sake consultant to restaurants on the East coast.

Herewith are Eric's thoughts on the sake called Gassan:

Gassan "Moon Mountain" Junmai Ginjo, Shimane Prefecture

Tired of floral, fruity sakes? Are you longing for something more traditional? Gassan is just that sake. When the aromas of this ginjo hit your nose there is no banana, no cherry, no violet, perhaps a hint of almond, but more than anything a very pleasant porridge like quality. On the palate you can feel this incredibly, soft water give your tongue a hug. Gassan is not too sweet not too dry. Umami, that elusive quality that accentuates the flavors of the sake but also the foods you pair with it, is ever-present. A nice acidity and a slightly meaty backbone make this sake very food friendly. Serve slightly chilled or room temperature.

Shimane is famous for its soba and beef, both of these dishes would come alive with Gassan. With such a classic sake it is only natural to pair it with local cuisine.

At my last job we had a dish with truffle oil. The meaty back bone and the acidity stood up to the truffle oil and was a great pairing for the dish. I think it would be fun to pair this sake with a pasta dish or tar tare with truffle oil.

Yoshida Brewery was established in 1826, nestled in the mountainside in eastern Shimane. The water from this brewery comes from a spring that has been in use since 1666. The local castle would use this water for their tea ceremony. The mountain on which the castle sat is named Gassan, "Moon Mountain", the namesake of this great sake.

Thanks Eric! I will have to agree that this sake has a certain characteristic that sets it apart from the usual crowd of light and floral Ginjos. It has a meatiness and one of my favorite features in a sake a "fat" profile that envelops the mouth with pounds of flavor. Hidden amongst some deep grains and as Eric said "porridge" qualities I find a very delicate vein of pineapple, which is also present in the aroma in a white wine glass. Herewith is my review of Gassan:

Gassan "Moon Mountain" 

Shimane Prefecture. Junmai Ginjo
SMV: +4 Acidity:1.4
The nose on this sake is filled with blackberries, minerals, steamed rice and hint of pineapple. This is a deep Ginjo that drinks really easy but has loads of amazing flavors. Be on the look out for hints of oats, cotton, and a vein of pineapple. It is viscous and chewy, and the plumpness is all the more enjoyable as there is a vast wave of flavor in each sip. And behold an overall umami quality that is hard to describe but easy to sense. Plump and soft it is definitely a mouth feel-good brew.
WORD: Pineapple
WINE: Pinot Noir/plump whites
BEER: Full-bodied ales
FOODS: Pairs really well with garlic and oils, and fear not anything off of the grill.
Gassan sells for $14/300ml bottle. It is a perfect gift for the "foodies" in your family! 

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