“MY MISSION IS TO MAKE ARTISAN SAKES WITH CHARACTER. JOYFULLY EXUBERANT GENEROUS AND OPEN-HEARTED SAKES.” ~ Kimio Yonezawa
Japan’s most popular drink is becoming popular in the United States. Sake is on the rise and becoming increasingly fashionable to drink. Sake consumption during a Japanese dinner is undisputed, but due to its low acidity and lack of tannins is it extremely food-friendly and versatile, and can be paired with a variety of international cuisines. One of the sakes that I enjoy immensely is Akashi-Tai Sake.
Akashi-Tai Sake Brewery
Akashi-Tai was founded in 1856 in Hyogo prefecture, producing artisan sake that is handmade in small batches. They brew their sake using traditional methods with only the finest locally sourced ingredients. The rice and water from Hyogo is renowned throughout Japan and amongst sake aficionados.
The Akashi-Tai brand and logo is special and unique. The label has a fish on the bottle, the fish is the famous local Sea Bream(Tai means Sea Bream). Sea Bream is found on the shores of Osaka Bay, where the brewery is located. The fish symbolizes strength and resilience, which are the qualities Akashi-Tai admires and seeks to express.
I had an opportunity to taste three Akashi-Tai sakes with the President and Toji(master brewer), Kimio Yonezawa. Kimio is the fourth generation sake master at Akashi-Tai Sake Brewery, he has devoted his entire life to sake. He is a creator and innovator, combining art and science into something beautiful and rare.
Sake Basics and Production
Sake is the epitome of Japanese culture. Many folks think sake is strong like a spirit, but in actuality, sake is more subtle and delicate. Sake is more like beer and wine, it is a fermented product. There is an old saying, “sake is brewed like a beer but drunk like a wine”.
Sake brewing is a highly intricate and delicate process. Akashi-Tai Sake is produced from the finest rice from Hyogo. The rice is picked and then polished, to enhance the flavor and taste of the sake. Kimio says, the more polished the rice, the more elegant, aromatic and fruity the sake. They also use the best water in Japan, natural spring water, which is the same water that is used to grow rice.
In wine, there is a sense of terroir and place. Sake is similar in the sense that it is very much about regionality, with specific varieties of rice, sunshine, and soil all play a factor in the terroir of the sake. Harvesting and knowing when to pick the rice is also critical in the process at Akashi-Tai. After the rice has been polished, the rice is steamed, fermented, pressed, filtered and bottled.
This is a very particular type of sake. There is a neutral distilled spirit added, making it a fortified sake. Honjozo is a premium everyday drinking sake. This Honjozo is a convivial sake to enjoy with friends that is very versatile(enjoy cold or warm). There are notes of lemon zest and oranges. It is a smooth and well-balanced sake.
This Daiginjo is floral and aromatic with a delicate nose of white blossoms and pear. This is an incredibly beautiful sake. There is a nice bright acidity with an elegant mouthfeel. This is a perfect pairing with freshly shucked oysters.
Junmai Daiginjo Genshu
There is an incredible bouquet on the Junmai that sings from the glass. There are notes of lychee, lemon and melons on the nose. The wine is subtle, soft and balanced with great complexity. It is light and delicate with a hint of salinity on the finish. This is the grand cru of the Akashi-Tai sakes.