My Conversation with John Gauntner – June, 2011
Sake of the Month – June, 2011: Fukucho “Moon on the Water” Junmai Ginjo
Steve here: The world of sake brewing was traditionally a man’s world. Tell us about a sake made by a woman.
John Gauntner: How about the Junmai Ginjo called Fukucho, “Moon on the Water?” This sake hails from Hiroshima Prefecture and is brewed by Miho Imada, the daughter of the company’s president and owner-inherit. Imada took over the operation when she realized that if she did not take it on, no one would. Even a few decades ago, a woman would not have even been allowed to enter the kura (brewery,) much less be a brewer; much, much less be the toji (master brewer).
Imada’s kura sits just down the hill from the remains of the Sanzabura Miura kura, where modern ginjo brewing techniques were developed in Hiroshima almost a century ago, launching Hiroshima into sake prominence.
Both Imada’s skill and style are clearly expressed in her sake. Though she makes a wide range of styles, this “Moon on the Water” is light, fruity, bright and crisp, and often boasts anise and grapefruit. Very, very refreshing chilled as an aperitif!
Steve: Is it for sale in the west?
John: Like all of the sakes of the month on this blog, Moon on the Water is available in the U.S. It is a wonderful sake that I hope people will try.
Steve: Changing the subject, tell us about nama-zake.
John: Nama-zake is unpasteurized sake. Many variations on the pasteurization process itself, lead to many variations in nama-zake, the terms that define it, and the sake behind those terms.
To be very clear: nama-zake is NOT necessarily better than its pasteurized equivalent. Many people like to promote nama as better, rare, fresher, and more enjoyable. While nama is less common and can be very enjoyable, the truth is it is just different, neither better nor worse than pasteurized sake. It is simply different.
Nama-zake is usually lively, aromatic and bold with lots of cut wood, fruity and permeating aromas. Quite nice! However, please note that aromas can often be a veil between your senses and the depths of the sake. Restated, often we can experience more subtlety and depth from pasteurized sake than nama-sake.
In the end, it is all about individual preference. If you enjoy it, nama or not, it is good. End of story.
Steve: Thanks John. See you in July!
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.