Saturday, March 10, 2007

Junmai Ginjo Sake Tasting

Since we began keeping a record in 2004, we have drunk over 150 different sakes. But "drinking" and "tasting" are dramatically different activities. "Drinking" is done for pure enjoyment, usually (but not always) involves eating, and social interaction and/or camaraderie. "Tasting" is a more serious, scientific/analytical process requiring concentration to identify the characteristics of sake e.g. it's aromatics, flavor profile, etc. The first time we seriously "tasted" sake was during John Gauntner's Professional Sake Course in Tokyo earlier this year. The experience was eye opening for us, and we vowed to do more "tasting" when we returned home.

The limited selection offered by NYC wine shops defined the bounds of our comparison, but undaunted, we settled on three Junmai Ginjo sakes available in 300 ml bottles....Hakkaisan from Niigata, Tenryo Hidomare from Gifu, Meisousui from Miyagi. All three met the minimum (seimaibuai) qualification of having at least 40% of the outer shell of the rice used, milled (or polished) away and had similar levels of acidity. Each had been brewed using different rice strains and yeasts (for more details, click on the link at the end of this post).

The findings: (1) Hakkaisan had a rich woody and nutty flavor with hint of yogurt, which matched well with foods that have a salty and/or miso component as well as with a peppery green like argula. (2) Tenryu had a bright floral flavor with a hint of strawberry, which goes well with creamy flavors like mayonnaise or risotto, and tuna confit. Mustard flavors in food brought out the sweetness of the sake. (3) Meisousui had a very light and bright flavor. As the name suggests(Meisou means meditation), this sake was a very relaxed, quiet sake (in contrast to the boldness of the Tenryu), and it matched well with tomatoes and mayo flavors, but an even better pairing was braised daikon. The sake is very delicate that it maybe the best to drink it by itself or with a light dashi-flavored dish.

More detail on the tasting,
click here for the tasting note.

1 comment:

Melinda said...

Oooh, very scientific! Sounds great, and I love the pairing notes as well.