Happy New Year! Or: Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!
January in Japan means peak saké brewing season; the lower temperatures cause the fermentation process to slow down, making it easier to control the brewing process.
The New Year is traditionally welcomed in the morning with the ritual of Otoso - a spiced medicinal saké. The first kanji for Otoso means “evil spirits” and the second means “to defeat.” The hope behind Otoso is that drinking it will flush away any bad luck or misfortune from the previous year. The saké cup passes from the youngest to oldest, passing vitality from the young to the elderly. Here's to good health!
Fukucho Seaside sParkling
Miho Imada, Brewing Badass
From the Imada Brewery comes the delightful Fukucho Seaside Sparkling. This Junmai was born to be paired with seafood. Brewed with white koji (often used for Shochu) it is mild and light, with plenty of citric acid. It uses secondary fermentation rather then carbonation, resulting in a saké which is crisp, soft and Brut-like in nature, with refreshing citrus and pear notes.
It also must be mentioned that Toji and Owner Miho Imada is a 3rd generation brewer who is making waves in Japan’s saké industry, and not just because she is one of about 30 female Toji in Japan.
Her accomplishments to date include reviving a local heirloom rice that was out of use for hundreds of years, creating her own hybrid yeast starter, and (as you will taste here) experimenting with brewing using white koji.
Sho Chiku bai rei junmai daiginjo
Japanese Tradition, American Brewing
Takara Saké doesn't just import saké - they also brew it in the United States, using traditional Japanese methods. They were established in Berkeley, CA in 1983 and produce saké, mirin and shochu in addition to importing from Japan.
This daiginjo is lightly floral, with flavors of cantaloupe and honeydew. REI (prounouced RAY) is smooth, full-bodied and soft with a Seimaibuai rating (or polish rate) of 50%. It pairs very well with a variety of cheese and charcuterie, and even with slightly heartier meat dishes.