Sake of the Month – May, 2011: Kanbara Bride of the Fox
Steve here: Warm weather is back. The days are getting longer. What great sake do you have in mind for May, John?
John: You will love this one, Steve: Kanbara Bride of the Fox. This Junmai Ginjo takes its name from the famous fox-bride festival held annually in this small town in Niigata, to celebrate a local legend about mysterious lights that have appeared on nearby Mt. Kirin; brewed with locally-grown Gohyakumangoku rice.
Enjoy intense aromas of grilled nuts, pistachio, and a hint of white chocolate. Flavors of nuts and ripe honeydew explode at the front. It finishes crisp with a hint of lingering sweetness.
And, for those interested in such things, Stephen Tanzer has given this sake 91 points! In 2007, he wrote:
"Very pale color, deeper than the Wandering Poet but less brilliant. High-pitched, nuanced nose combines melon, lime, mint, nuts and dusty fresh herbs. Juicy and intense, with assertive flavors of citrus fruit, melon, herbs, spices and nuts. Not a heavy style but boasts impressive palate presence and plenty of character. The long finish hints at melon and nuts."
Steve: What do you think about the adding alcohol as part of the production process of some brands of sake?
John: Junmai means pure rice, and that word on the bottle means the sake was made without adding any distilled alcohol. While this seems intrinsically better to some folks, in truth, adding a very small amount of alcohol to a sake can be a very, very good thing.
Why? Because they add it just before the final pressing, and since flavorful and aromatic compounds are soluble in alcohol, by temporarily raising the overall alcohol content they can pull out more flavor and aroma from the fermented rice. Also, shelf life and stability can improve as well. Note: they add water again later to bring the alcohol content back down to normal, so such sake is not fortified. There are a few purists out there that feel that pure rice sake is naturally better.
Steve: Thanks John. Talk to you in June!
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.