August 2011 Sake of the Month: Ginga Shizuku Divine Droplets Junmai Daiginjo
Steve here: OK, John, what is a great sake suggestion for August, the hottest month of the year?
John Gauntner: Ginga Shizuku is from Hokkaido, from the very center of Japan’s northernmost island. The city, Asahikawa, holds the record for the coldest recorded temperatures in Japan, which makes it a great place to brew sake!
This top-grade junmai daiginjo is made with great rice, water, and yeast, but also it is drip-pressed. In other words, the sake is separated from the fermenting mash by allowing the sake to drip out with no pressure applied to the bags. This ensures more delicate, lively, vibrant flavors and aromas.
Says the importer: Spice, minerality, and banana skin dominate the aroma profile of this shizuku-pressed sake. Medium-bodied with a clean impact, the flavors run the gamut of a well-crafted Junmai-Daiginjo- melons, herbs, vanilla essence and concentrated mineral flavors that keep the sake focused well into its long, ethereal finish. Truly one of the 'Rolls-Royces' of sake.
Fruity Aromas From Rice?
When approaching one's first ginjo or daiginjo, it is not uncommon for someone to do an olfactory double-take. “What the… Banana? Melon? Apple? Strawberry even! How does this…” they exclaim, incredulously poking a finger toward the top of a glass of sake,” come from rice? Huh?”
The answer is yeast. Sake yeast takes the sugars and other compounds that come from the rice and ferments them to reveal a whole host of aromatic compounds like esters and more that give us that alluring array of fruit and more. No, the brewers do not add anything. No, it has nothing do with fruit nearby the rice fields or kura. No, it is not modern engineering. It is more like ancient craftsmanship.
A line to remember: more than anything else, yeast contributes to aromas, and more than anything else, rice leads to flavor.
Steve: Thanks John. See you in September!
Remember, the sake that John reviews are available in the U.S.
John Gauntner is one of the world's most celebrated sake experts. He is an author, newspaper columnist and international lecturer. See John's website at http://www.sake-world.com.