3 Best Top-Grade Sake Rice Wines in Niigata
When it comes to “Sake (酒)” rice wine, what has been spotlighted in recent years is admittedly “Dassai (獺祭)”, which became a big hit in Japan several years ago.
The Sake Dassai is brewed by the Sake brewery located in Yamaguchi Prefecture “Asahi Shuzo (旭酒造)” and was presented to the former president of the United States, Obama when he visited Japan.
Because of this, it is no exaggeration to say that Dassai is the most popular Sake brand in Japan as of today, but in terms of production areas of Sake rice wine, the prefecture where I live, Niigata is one of the most famous.
Niigata is well-known for its delicious rice and prides itself on several high-quality Sake brands that are well recognized nationwide. Especially, the following 3 Sake brands are best known to Sake lovers thanks to their excellent taste.
Kubota is the top-grade Sake of “Asahi Shuzo (朝日酒造)”, a Sake brewery located in the city of Nagaoka, Niigata. It is exquisitely delicious and said to have changed the image of Sake. In fact, there are few Sake fans but know the brand name, Kubota.
There are 5 grades in the Sake Kubota, that is, “Manju (萬寿)”, “Hekiju (碧寿)”, “Kouju (紅寿)”, “Senju (千寿)”, and “Hyakuju (百寿)”, and Kubota Manju is the best-quality Sake. It is a type of Sake called “Junmai Daiginjoshu (純米大吟醸酒)”, which is made from only 3 raw materials, 50 percent or less polished rice, malted rice, and water. Kubota Manju features well-balanced umami with a mild taste.
Koshi no Kanbai (越乃寒梅)
Brewed by “Ishimoto Shuzo (石本酒造)” located in the city of Niigata, Koshi no Kanbai is one of the best Sake brands in Japan. It was known as a phantom Sake before and since has been highly regarded for decades.
Even now Koshi no Kanbai doesn’t have a lot of supply but is so popular that the products in the series are sometimes traded at premium prices on internet auctions and online shopping sites.
As with Kubota, Koshi no Kanbai also comes in several grades and Koshi no Kanbai Kinmuku is the top-grade Junmai Daiginjoshu. The Sake rice wine features the sophisticated taste accompanied with a delicate fragrance called “Ginjoko (吟醸香)” specific to the Sake type “Ginjoshu (吟醸酒)”, including Dai-Ginjoshu.
Hakkaisan is one of Niigata’s best-recognized Sake brands from Hakkaisan Brewery located in the city of Minami-Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture. The Sake is likened to a brother of Koshi no Kanbai, because the brewery has high brewing techniques.
The pictured Sake, Hakkaisan Junmai Ginjo is a type of Sake called “Junmai Ginjoshu (純米吟醸酒)”, made from 50 to 60 percent polished rice, malted rice, and water. The taste is characterized by the natural umami of rice and when the Sake goes down the throat, it gives you a nicely mild sensation.