September 2006

Sake Spotlight - Mark Bright

Posted by Beau Timken in 2006, Newsletter, Sake Spotlight, September

"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 sake, wine, beer and food industries to give their perspectives and insights to the how, what and why's for very special sakes. These insiders are importers, brewers, authors, 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 approached a young gun in the wine world currently making his name selecting fine wines for numerous restaurants. Mark Bright, from Chicago, was 21 when he became a sommelier and was one of the "Best New Sommeliers" in Wine & Spirits 2005. But more importantly he simply enjoys learning new things about wine, especially "rice wines" that come from Japan. He also made the mistake of coming to True Sake, where we tried to sink the hook really deep!


Mark selected a "new world" brew that is indicative of a new-style of sakes that speak to a generation of different sake drinkers. It is along the lines of Ichinokura's Himezen and Kamoizumi's Kome-Kome (which is not exactly a sake per se). All "sweet" sakes in a sense that the fruitiness is out front and yelling "I am fruity as all get out!" But the final products are classy, clean and very refreshing.


Take it away Mark:

When diners go out to find dining restaurants they usually want a nice wine pairing with their food. This is an excellent way to enjoy an evening and enlighten the meal. Wine has been the best beverage for accompanying food, these pairings being perfected in European cuisine and brought to restaurants worldwide. During this globalization of cuisine there has been an incredible growth in the blending of Asian flavors and techniques. This is why I ask myself why there hasn't been an incredible growth in the introduction of Asian wines to pair with these trends. Recently there has been a growing number of beverage professionals attempting to introduce Sake into the American dining scene. I have found two amazing sake's that represent two basic sides, dry and off-dry styles, that accompany many dishes from Chef Ola Fendert at Oola Restaurant. The off-dry style, Karen Coy from Sake house Ichishima Shuzo. This is a Junmai and is phenomenal. The Sake reminds me of a very light Riesling Kabinett and goes well with the same food, especially fried foods like crab cakes and tempura. This is an elegant style, which is very aromatic with hints of lychee, apple and strawberry. Acidity is a key element in wine/food pairing and this is a perfect example of balanced acidity that goes well with higher acid dishes, such as Ola's Seared Spiced Ahi Tuna. With it's citrus components and champagne vinaigrette it's a great clean dish awaiting for a clear clean Sake. Sake is a very high quality beverage, one in which I consider on the same level as wine itself. I will definitely continue to offer Sake in wine programs I am involved with and always continue to consult the Sake sommeliers, the Masters of their subject. The most important thing is to continuously try Sake with different foods, experiment, have fun, because that is what dining is all about


Thank you Mark, and yes we will watch you like a hawk to make certain that sakes will continue to make inroads on your wine menu programs. You are indeed a smart man! That said, two things stuck out for me in this review. The first is the Riesling comparison, which I completely agree with. These types of fruit forward - below average SMV (Sake Meter Value) - sakes all run the risk of being too cloying in an overly fruity capacity. Hell I have tasted some that drink like syrup and would do better on pancakes, but Coy does not fit that bill on account of the fact that it is crisp and clean, which leads me to the second point. The acidity levels of these fruit-forward sakes have to be way up there to balance out all of the sugars. Plain and simple, too sweet on the palate, especially the tip of your tongue, and you mute all the other taste sensations. But with a healthy acidity play these components stay in the forefront rather than being muted in flow of sweet goop.


And thanks to Mark's timely review, we just starting carrying Coy at True Sake and the review reads a little like this:


Ichishima "Coy"
Niigata Prefecture.
SMV: -23
Acidity: 2.9
This "New World" sake is actually called "Karen" in Japan, and it is a low-alcohol brew (10%) with a nose filled with peach, lychee and apple aromas. Talk about complexity and questions! How can rice and water taste like such an array of fruit tones? There is nothing "Coy" about this sake as large Fuji apple elements dance in a clean and viscous flow. Behold a layer of sweetness that is brilliantly balanced by a very heady acidity level. Bright and chewy, this fruity brew drinks with an elegance not found in a typical Junmai.
WORD: Fruity
WINE: Rieslings/ Sauternes
BEER: Sweet Belgian Ales
FOODS: Dim sum, fried fish, tempura, fruit plates, creamy cheese.

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