I recently attended the Joy of Sake in New York City, the largest sake-tasting event held outside Japan, with over 350 sakes. There were examples of every brewing style from every region of the country. Categories included Junmai, Ginjo, and Daiginjo A and B. Tasting tables were decorated with linens and flowers; many sake bottles are works of art on their own. To really understand and appreciate sake, you should taste as many as possible. There are different grades from dry to sweet.
Referred as “rice wine,” sake has been brewed in Japan for over 2,000 years. It has four main ingredients: sake rice (larger grains), water, yeast, and koji (enzymes.) The key to quality stems from how long the rice is polished – the longer it’s polished, the more pure it becomes. The rice is then steamed, and the flavor is determined by the variety of sake rice and the quality of the water used – much like brewing beer. The best sakes are aged for up to six months to enhance flavor. Sake is clear, easy to drink, and pairs extremely well with our local seafood and sushi. Premium sake is served chilled, or at room temperature.
In the Seacoast, Sake is available at Japanese restaurants. You can also find it at the New Hampshire State Liquor Stores, Philbrick’s Fresh Market, and the Wine Society. Prices range from $9 to $50.
Here are some of the highlights of the Joy of Sake.
Rihaku Junmai Nigori
Lush and round with flavors of pear, rice and vanilla (available at Takumi in Nashua, N.H.)
Medium bodied, semi-sweet, with notes of spicy fennel, and some lemon zest flavors (available at Surf Sushi in Portsmouth, N.H.).
Nanbu Bijin Daiginjo
Semi sweet, creamy, and graceful with touches of apple.
Gekkeikan Horin Junmai Daiginjo
One of the largest sake brewers. Refreshing, crisp, with mild fruity flavors.
Hoyo Kura no Hana Junmai Daiginjo
Clear, elegant, with undertones of peach and melon.