Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Wonderfully Surprising World of Aged Sake

Being a Christmas baby (not exactly, but the 22nd is close enough) I really love winter. I love the fashion, having to get all bundled up just to go outside...scarves, gloves, long coats. And I absolutely love the food of winter. Don't get me wrong, tomatoes, watermelons and nectarines that are perfectly just a bit unripe and crunchy...love 'em too. But there's something about roasts and braising meats, stews and chilis. In Japan, its all about the nabemono. Giant ceramic bowls filled with anything from crab legs to thin sliced beef to eggs and leeks. I am a huge fan of CIY (cook it yourself) dinners. The connection with the food you prepared and are now enjoying with a little bowl of steamed rice.
Just the other day, I had some sake friends in the restaurant. Lately, the Chefs have getting down with wagyu (Japanese Kobe, yes the real stuff) tongue. Now, I myself, am not really a tongue person, or for that matter an offal person, but this stuff is just incredible. Braised in red wine and veal stock, it is oozing with umami. I had an idea
of sending out Hanahato "Kijoshu." Kijoshu holds a special place within the realm of the sake world. It goes like this: at some point during the fermentation, the brewer adds previously brewed sake to the mash, instead of water. After the whole process, this stuff is then bottled and set to age for 8 years. On the nose very mushroomy and earthy with hints of nuts, maple syrup and toffee. The palate is surprisingly light, yet rich with layers of cocoa and more mushrooms. I poured it for my friends about 10 minutes before they were to taste it s
o that it could warm up just a bit...the fridges are a little too cold in my opinion. Anyhow, the verdict was good. It seemed to me that they licked the plate clean. The feedback was very positive.
The whole concept of aged sake is a mixed bag. In addition to the million ways you can make the sake, there another million way to aged it. You can age in the bottle, in the tank, in a 1.8L bottle. The length of time you age. The temperature at which it ages obviously has a serious affect on how the sake ages. Here are a few pics of some various ways I've seen sake age.
The first picture shows junmai sake aging in the heiseigura at Sawanoi brewery in the rural mountains of Tokyo. The bottles were not under temperature control. The second photo shows bottles aging in the old bomb shelter at Tensei brewery in Kanagawa. Like all things in sake, there is full intent for this sake to age. The brewer knows it is going to change. Just how much, though is the question.

1 comment:

T said...

I'll be traveling to Tensei shuzo today. That's interesting that they use an old bomb shelter!