Thursday, March 12, 2009

NEW: Gorin Junmai Daiginjo Nama!

This time we are going to take a little trip down to Ishikawa Prefecture in Southern Japan.
Our destination, Shata Shuzo, makers of Tengumai and Gorin!
I will be introducing one of their newest sakes, as well as a little bit of fun they call Honey sake.
Then we will take a look inside the brewery to see how they're made!

Gorin (go-rin) / 五凜
Junmai Daiginjo Nama / 純米大吟醸生
Alcohol: 16% / Polish: 45%
SMV: +4
Brewery: Shata Shuzo / Ishikawa Prefecture

Tasting notes:
On the nose: Slightly fruity, with lots of sweet rice fragrances. Very fresh and clean, with a bit of yeast, a good Nama-zake smell. Not as fragrant as your average Daiginjo.

On the palate: Very fresh, and slightly fruity. Sweetness from the rice comes first, followed by a slight bite towards the end. Full bodied, with a mouth watering finish that leaves nothing desired.

Other notes:
  • The main goal with the Gorin series (Containing Junmai, and Junmai Dai-ginjo, in both Nama, and once pasteurized varieties), was to create sake that focuses mainly on taste rather than fragrance, and is a perfect match to a wide range of food.
  • Shata Shuzo's main variety of sake is Yamahai, so this is a completely different direction for them, however they do have a Yamahai version of Gorin in the works as we speak.
  • Gorin is made from one of the most popular varieties of rice in Japan: Yamada-nishiki. Widely recognized as one of the best, if not the best, sake rice in use today. It is very easy to brew with, giving the brewers a lot of flexibility, as well as adding a layered fruitiness to the sake itself.
  • Comes in 720ml and 1.8L bottles.
Tenshi no Mitsu (Angel's Honey) / 天使のみつ
Honey sake / みつのお酒
Alcohol: 14%
Brewery: Shata Shuzo Ishikawa Prefecture

Tasting notes:
On the nose: Sweet molasses.

On the palate: Sweet lightly fruity, reminiscent of plum and honey.

Other notes:
  • What makes this Honey sake different from just a normal mead, is that not only honey is used for the fermenting sugar. The main ingredients are: Honey and Koji molded rice. The addition of the Koji gives this a little extra boost of fruitiness and depth.
  • Comes in one size: 300ml.

Shata Shuzo Brewery
This is a trip that I made about a month ago. I was waiting for the arrival of Gorin's Junmai Daiginjou in order to give you the full experience.

Shata Shuzo, located on the outskirts of Kanazawa City, is a relatively small brewery. Shata Shuzo's number one policy is quality first. This can be seen in every step of the brewing process.

The first factor, and most likely the oldest, is water. As was explained to me, the water comes from the peaks of Mount Haku, one of Japan's three "holy mountains." The water travels underground for almost 100 years before it reaches the wells at Shata Shuzo. This creates an exceptionally clean and pristine water that is, most importantly, almost completely free of iron (a vital factor in sake making).

The second factor, is the rice. The rice used in most all of Shata Shuzo's sake is a variety of Sake rice (rice that has been specially bred for sake making, and is generally higher in starch and lower in fats and acids than normal table rice), Called Yamada-Nishiki. As I explained briefly above (in the other notes section of the Gorin tasting), Yamada-Nishiki is heralded as perhaps the greatest sake rice in use today. It provides a fruity liveliness to the sake, and because it is relatively easy to make sake out of (as compared to other strains of sake rice, it is still very hard to make sake), It gives the brewers a lot more freedom to refine the sake, than they would otherwise have.

the third factor is polishing. 100% of the rice used in Shata Shuzo's sake is polished on site. This is becoming a rarity in the sake world, mainly due to the enormous price of the polishing machines (there are only two breweries in Ishikawa prefecture that polish 100% of their own rice). This allows them to ensure the quality of their rice polish.





Next we move on to Koji mold cultivation. As was explained to me by Shata Shuzo's master brewer, or Toji as they say in Japanese, about 70% of sake depends on Koji. It seems a little silly that so much can ride on one little mold spore, but after going to the brewery, eating the freshly made koji rice, and the n drinking the sake made from it, there is no doubt to the amount of the flavor and smell, that directly stems from this powerful little fungi.

(1) Shatta Shuzo's hot room, the temperature in this room is kept uncomfortably warm (Temp varies from Brewery to brewery) with high humidity. The rice is held within long trays, and the temperature, in this case, is controlled by opening and closing the sliding doors beneath the trays. The whole apparatus was hand made by brewery staff.

(2) Koji cooling room, and master brewer Mr. Tokuda. Here the finished koji rice is cooled and readied to be added to the mash.

(3) Close up of the finished Koji molded rice. At this point it is of a hard marshmallow consistency and puts off a very distinctive sweet smell. Personally, I wish they packaged this stuff like potato chips, because it is delicious.

(4) Here is a peek inside the bag of Koji (let go to spore), that is used to seed the new Koji rice. I can't tell you what strain of Koji it is, as it is restricted information that they do not openly share.

Next I will explain a bit about the steps leading into the main mash, or "moromi" in Japanese.
This process happens in several steps over a period of 4 days, and is called "san-dan Shikomi."

Day 1
Step 1: The Shubo, or yeast starter mash, is added to the main fermentation tank.

Step 2 (Soe): Water, rice, and Koji rice are added to the shubo, roughly enough to double the volume. (writing on sign says "Soe")

Day 2
Step 3 (Odori): The Mash is left to sit for an entire day, in order to let the yeast re propagate. The name odori is thought to have come from two sources: 1. the large stair in the middle of a staircase in which you stop to take a rest is called odori. 2. odori can also mean to dance, which is what the mash appears to be doing as it bubbles away.

Day 3
Step 4 (Naka): Water, rice and Koji rice are again added to the mix, roughly doubling the volume again.

Day 4
Step 5 (tome): The last step, water, rice, and koji rice are added for the final time, doubling the volume again.

After step 5, the process is over, and the result is called "Moromi." At this point the main fermentation begins. Fermentation lasts anywhere from a couple of weeks, to over a month, depending on the grade of sake being produced.

Next is the pressing stage which I have explained in a previous post, so I will just breeze over it.
Shata Shuzo has 2 Fune presses, and a large accordion press. most of the press work is done in the accordion press, save for the daiginjo class sake.

Freshly pressed Tengumai Yamahai Junmai. I was lucky enough to get a first hand taste, Delicious!

Lastly we had a tasting of this years sake. going from left to right we have: Tengumai Daiginjo, Tengumai Junmai Daiginjo, Gorin Yamahai Junmai, and a taste of Gorin Junmai Daiginjo's moromi.

Whether it is Tengumai or Gorin, I highly recommend any of the lineup of sake from Shata Shuzo.


Meishu no Yutaka staff

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