Whilst natural wine has been in the news for some time now what can be loosely termed as ‘natural sake’ has been produced for quite a while.
What makes a sake ‘natural’ ?
Although there are many opinions we tend to go with the one where the sake is interfered with as least as possible. Also that the sake is as organic as possible with the only exception being the lack of an (expensive) government organic license.
Niida Honke produces such sakes. If you google ‘Niida Honke Vimeo’ you will find a beautiful video with the head toji and kuramoto of Niida Honke telling his story of how the Tsunami in Fukushima affected him and changed his whole philosophy and spurred him onto the making of sustainable sake using produce only sourced from his immediate surrounds. In other words zero ‘sake miles’. The water is local, both for growing the rice and making of the sake. Even the cedar for the tanks is from the tall cedar trees that grow on the hills surrounding the brewery.
The symbol or mascot for the Odayaka (green label) Junmai ginjo is a frog (see if you can make it out on the label). The reason it is a hero to them is that they use them in the rice fields to control pests rather than harmful pesticides. For the rice growe to adopt such a method requires a lot of bravery as the yields can be 30% lower (and hence more expensive).
But the result is a sake which is much better for health.
Also their sake is ‘muroka’ meaning unfiltered. It is not run through a carbon filter which means it may not always be crystal clean white – it may have a yellow hue – but this is more than made up for with the increase in vibrancy in taste.
Also their sakes eschew the modern sokuju method instead relying on the more ancient yamahai and kimoto method which although slower are more natural in the way they introduce yeast to the starter moto.
Which sake should I buy ?
For a more economical sake and one that has been designed to enjoy heated as well as room temperature the ‘Kan Atsurae’ Junmai is for you.
For those that enjoy a more fruity and refined and smooth sake, the Odayaka Junmai ginjo is recommended.
These sakes are probably a bit more expensive than others but you are getting your value in sustainability, organic and natural production (although we admit not certified) and a superior taste that will leave you satisfied after the bottle is finished.
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