January 2006

Sake Spotlight - "Midnight Moon"

Posted by admin in 2006, January, Newsletter, Sake Spotlight

"Sake Spotlight" is a unique section within the Newsletter that takes a closer look at specific sakes that may be purchased at True Sake. I approach different professionals within the industry to give their perspectives and insights to the how, what and why's for very specials sakes. These insiders are importers, brewers, authors, sake sommeliers, or just enthusiasts who will take your knowledge base a little further. What I like about this segment is that often my review is quite different than that of the guest professional's adding to the point that there is no right or wrong when discussing your opinion about sake.

This month I am extremely pleased to welcome my long time friend and the top importer of sake into the US, Mr. Kazu Yamazaki, Vice- President of the Japan Prestige Sake Association. There is a very good chance that at some point in time you have tasted one of Kazu's imported sakes such as Otokoyama, Wakatake, Umenishiki, Urakasumi, Suishin, etc. Kazu was one of my first contacts in the sake world, and I greatly enjoy his vast knowledge and keen perceptions about sake. He has done a great deal for the rise in popularity of sake in the US and is a pioneer in his vision to help the West learn more about sake rather than just pushing the product on those who have no idea. In a Word Kazu is good for sake!

For this "Sake Spotlight" Kazu selected one of his own imported sakes called Meibo "Yowanotsuki" which translates to Beautiful Eyes or its street name of "Midnight Moon."

Meibo "Yowanotsuki"

  • Junmai Ginjo
  • Rice: Yamadanishiki milled to 50% (which is actually a Dai Ginjo polishing level)
  • SMV: + 2 (Sake Meter Value - the residual sugars left in the sake)
  • Acidity: 1.5
  • Amino Acid: 1.2
  • Alcohol: 15.8%
  • Water: Soft
  • Yeast: Secret! ("The brewer doesn't disclose what kind of yeast that they use. My guess is that they use their own home grown yeast")

"What I like about this sake is that when a brewery mills Yamadanishiki down to 50% they usually try to produce a wide range of fruity flavors, but Meibo doesn't follow this approach. The aromas on Midnight Moon are kind of moderate, but there is a fair amount of fruits, like melon and green apple combined with tree leaves and grains. The taste of this sake is really great because of its balance; fruity flavors are more like a side dish with the more important ricey flavor taking center plate. This rice flavor does not overpower the other elements, as a good amount of acidity is present and working to balance out the flavor profile. However this elevated acidity does not come off as too tart, rather it is mild enough to harmonize with the amino acids which results in a more mild viscous texture.""Meibo is a very food friendly sake that works well with almost and Japanese cuisine. I recommend elements from mountains and rivers (take your best guess). The brewery was founded in 1784 in Seto city in Aichi Prefecture where the Tokkuri (tall cylindrical sake pourer) was invented."

Thank you Kazu, and I agree on several points. Firstly for me Meibo is the classic "drinks far dryer than it's SMV" sake. I always recommend it to those who say that they like their dry white Wines with fruit forward and a dry quick finish. It is indeed a well-balanced sake that for me explores the dried fruit tones more than the juicier fruits. And I say this even though one of the major flavors that pops for me is cantaloupe melon. The bottom line is, and Kazu touched upon this, the fact that the yeast used in this sake's production really shows how yeast can influence flavor as much as aroma. There is an old saying in the sake world that "rice dictates the flavor and yeast dictates the aroma," but I think the opposite is at work here. And this has to do with their "secret yeast" I would assume.

Herewith is my store review for the Midnight Moon:

Meibo Yowanotsuki "Midnight Moon" 

Aichi Prefecture 1784.
Junmai Ginjo
SMV: +2 Acidity: 1.5
This is a very consistent flavorful, light and smooth type of Ginjo. The nose is full of vanilla and melon, and the first sip shines of a well-built Ginjo. The sake has a smooth start and an equally smooth finish with a middle made up of melon and citrus undertones. It is very well balanced and literally slides on the tongue. The viscosity spells a fruity type flavor but the taste is refreshingly dry. There are hints of steamed rice and grains hidden amongst the layers of dried fruits. In sailing terms this Ginjo is even-keeled and the proof is in the easy and refreshing nature of each sip. Very user friendly for Ginjo lovers.

Word: Cantaloupe
Wine: Dry Whites/Crisp Reds
Beers: Hefferwiesens/Honey Ales
Foods: Omelets, fish mousses, oysters with vinaigrette, fried scampi.

If you recall we paired Meibo at the now "extremely" famous Kani (crab) Night sake pairing event last month with crab chowanmushi, which is similar to a heated egg custard that was served in the crab shell itself. It was awesome! This sake goes really well with eggs, no kidding!

Kazu has been very kind in the past to help me offer the Secret Word sakes found at the end of this Newsletter by giving True Sake a slight discount so that we can pass on this unique service to you. And lucky you, as he has offered to do the same for Meibo. This represents the first time that the month's Sake Spotlight is the same sake for the Secret Word. Thanks again Kazu!

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