May 12, 2008

Sake Brewed by Using a New Rice Variety

Last Sunday, we held a drinking party to try a new type of sake that has been brewed by using a new rice variety. The rice variety, called Koshitanrei, is a shuzo-kotekimai, which generically refers to the rice varieties suitable for making sake. Having Yamada Nishiki as mother and Gohyakumangoku as father, Koshitanrei has been crossbred in a 15-year cooperation of Niigata Sake Brewers Association, Niigata Prefectural Institute of Brewing, and Niigata Agricultural Research Institute Crop Research Center, and it was named Koshitanrei and registered as a new shuzo-kotekimai in 2004.

Yamada Nishiki, the mother of Koshitantei, is a very well-known shuzo-kotekimai. Many of the high-quality daiginjo sake products are made from Yamada Nishiki. In 1923, a new rice variety was crossbred by using Yamadabo as mother and Tankanwataribune as father. Then, its superior descendants were selected over generations and test growing was repeated for them to find the best variety. Thus, Yamada Nishiki was finally crossbred in 1936.

Meanwhile, having Kikusui as mother and Shin-nihyaku-go as father, Gohyakumangoku was crossbred in Niigata Agricultural Experiment Station in 1957. This rice variety and water of Niigata, which is a soft water, get along well with each other when sake is brewed by using them. In other words, the variety is suitable for making Niigata local sake, which is characterized by such words as "mild," "crispy," or "refined." Actually, over 90 percent of the shuzo-kotekimai harvested in Niigata prefecture is Gohyakumangoku. However, this variety has a disadvantage that it easily cracks during the milling if it is ground down to 50 percent or further to remove the outer part of the rice grains. This means that Gohyakumangoku is not very suitable for making daiginjo sake.

It is said that using Koshitanrei produces a sake that has a refreshing and crispy flavor attributed to Gohyakumangoku and layered flavors of Yamada Nishiki. So, we, as sake drinkers, had great anticipation this time. Although the registration of Koshitanrei was in 2004 as I described above, full-fledged cultivation of this variety started in 2006. This means that sake brewed by using this rice appeared for the first time in the general consumer market at earliest at the end of 2006. For the time being, we can drink Koshitanrei sake of the first or second brewery year.

This time, we drank Senbatsu Asahiyama (daiginjo) brewed by Asahi-shuzo. Asashi-shuzo brewed this sake by using Koshitanrei also for the first time.

This sake tasted so good that I could drink very much. It had quite a pure refined flavor, but at the same time it had a rich savor with a pleasant aftertaste.

By the way, each of us brought one's special sake to the party this time. We could enjoy different sake products, each of which was very nice. Thus, we had a pleasant drinking party. Thanks a lot to my friends!

Today's Sake
Senbatsu Asahiyama (Asahi-shuzo Sake Brewing Co., Ltd.)
The Asahi-shuzo's first product that has been made from Koshitanrei. I bought this sake during my stay in Niigata in March.
Rice used: Koshitanrei
Seimaibuai: 40%
Alcohol: 17.5%
Sake meter value: (+)2.0
Acidity: 1.0
Amino acid: 0.9

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