Monday, July 6, 2009

WBW #59 - An Homage to Kushi no Kami.

Richard over at hosts this months theme for WBW. Saké, "rice wine"! As a saké beginner, I went to my local wine store and perused their infinitely small saké selection (shame). As a label lover I looked for the most interesting label, and I have to admit, there wasn't anything that interesting. I was tempted to take trip into NYC to Sayaka Saké Shop (one of a mere handful of "saké only" shops in the US), after looking at their selection online. They have tons of really exotic labels to choose from, but alas, impromptu gallivants into the city for saké are not in my schedule...but one day will be. So I settled for Momokawa Pearl Saké for three reasons. One, the label was one of the more interesting ones available, and it was in a handsome blue bottle. Two, the label said it was a "fruity" saké that should be served chilled, and I wanted to see what that tasted like (most of the ones I had tasted previously were served hot, which I learned is done to mask the impure taste of an older saké, and generally tasted like rocket fuel). Three, it was a true "Nigori Genshu" (antique style, unfiltered) saké, and if I was going to do saké, I wanted to do it "old school".

I brought the bottle to my Thursday art studio night at my friend Pete's house. I usually bring a bottle of wine that nobody has ever tasted before, and this night was no exception. Everyone seemed a little put off by the saké idea, but after my encouragement speech about it being served chilled and it was fruity, I was able to convince a lot of people to try (after all, wine is a social event).

After shaking the bottle and pouring, people were surprised to see, first that I shook the bottle, and second that the saké was not clear, but instead cloudy; milky if you will. "Unfiltered", I told them. Again I was pelted with pessimistic looks. We all tasted together. We'll...fruity was not the first word to cross any one's lips. Reactions such as "creamy" and "salted pineapple" came to mind for many who imbibed. I personally agreed. It was a salty taste with hints of coconut/pineapple (kind of like a salty Malibu Rum with milk). Many did not go for a second sip, but I finished my glass. I used wine glasses to enforce the idea that it was a wine-like beverage. In the end, my glass was coated with the remnants of "rice pulp" which was not very attractive, but I was glad to have tried something I had never tried before. The taste seems to be an acquired one that I will continue to pursue, but in the filtered version from now on.

Thinking back now, I did try a cold filtered saké in a local Japanese restaurant a couple of months ago that was extremely enjoyable. It was a Junmai Daiginjo Jyudan Jikomi. It tasted like sweet flower petals, malty and lemony all at the same time. It was also very fulll bodied as I remember (almost dessert like). In comparison to the Momokawa it was much better, for me.

Kushi no Kami, so I have learned is the ancient god of saké, and I would hope that he is pleased that we are all blogging and reading about his beverage. I have also learned from Beau at Saké that saké is declining in popularity in Japan as it is seen by the younger generation as an older style drink (although there are many saké breweries that are dead set on carrying on the tradition). It seems that the Japanese are instead embracing "real" wine from all parts of the globe. The labels on saké are beautiful (kanji lettering is steeped in tradition and such a graceful art form), and a trip to Sayaka is definitely on the agenda sometime during the summer. If anyone wants to join me and my fellow artists (twitter: @artstudio85) on our next pilgrimage into NYC for gallery hopping and a stop into Sayaka please let me know via email or DM me on twitter @winelabelreview. Thank you Richard for a great topic, and I look forward to reading the rest of the articles on this topic.