Niigata is a special place for sake. Not quite sure what makes it special… some say the water, some say the snow, some say the climate, but when it comes down to it, above it’s the taste.
If anyone can help us unravel this mystery, it’s Ataru Kobayashi, Founder of SENA Niigata Sake Selections, an importer that focuses exclusively on sakes from Niigata Prefecture. I had the pleasure of meeting Kobayashi-san again at his recent tasting at Sakaya in New York City, and got to sample some fantastic Niigata sake.
First I had a fantastic sake that is one of my favorites! It’s Kakurei Junmai Daiginjo. I first tried this sake way back in December 2006 at a late night sake event at Sake Hana featuring all Niigata Sakes. At that 2006 event, I bet the Brewery President Mr. Takafumi Aoki who I remember to be a young and very enthusiastic champion of specialty brews from Niigata. It made quite an impression and I was happy to try it again almost two years later. I’m happy to report, Kakurei Junmai Daiginjo is still a perfect little gem of Niigata sake. It’s an oh so elegant Daiginjo with mild fruits on the palate and light floral aromas in the nose. Smooth and clean – so drinkable.
Next I sampled Hakuryu Daiginjo. This is an alcohol-added Daiginjo with a Niigata pedigree. “Hakuryu” means “White Dragon” in English. So, of course, I reached for the “Flagon with the dragon”, hoping it had the “brew that is true”. I lucked out and found Hakuryu to be light fruity and sooo smooth, this sake is one of Niigata’s finest. enjoy this with lighter fare such as sashimi and other raw fish. just a fantastic example of the light style of niigata brewing.
Last but not least I tried Yukikage Tokubetsu Junmai. This sake is called “Snow Shadow” in English. An important note about “Snow Shadow” is it’s lower alcohol percentage. that makes for a Junmai that has a lighter profile than you might expect. So, if you like your junmai light and airy, this Niigata treat is for you. Mild fruits and a nice soft palate, smooth and clean drinking. a real gem if you want to chill out with a no nonsense but very easy to enjoy sake. It seems all the Niigata sakes here have that lightness about them. I have to say, for me, it’s a style I really dig.
Given all this yummy Niigata sake, I feel like I have only touched on the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more to learn, and a lot more to taste when it comes to those Niigata Sake Selections! Kanpai!