In parallel with global expansion of sake market, sake brewers and Japanese people started to recognize the word “terroir”. The definition of terroir is as follows.
“Terroir is the set of all environmental factors that affect a crop’s phenotype, unique environment contexts and farming practices, when the crop is grown in a specific habitat. Collectively, these contextual characteristics are said to have a character”
Source）Tanzer, Stephen. “What is terroir”?
In terms of wine, following natural elements beyond the control of human are often given. Wine experts don’t agree with exact definition, tough.
• Soil type
• Other plants growing in and around the vine plots”
Brewing sake with considering its natural environment is very common for sake as well, but it’s not strictly defined.
Besides, a huge trend happened in 90s recessed the terroir way of thinking. Some people heard about the word “YK35”. Y = Yamadanishiki brewery rice, K = Kyokai yeast no.9, 35 = Polish rate 35%. In 90s, it was said that only sake produced with using 35% polished Yamadanishiki brewery rice and Kyokai yeast no.9 are able to win the National New Sake Appraising.
By being influenced by this trend, lots of breweries tried to buy the high-grade Yamadanishiki from Hyogo prefecture where is the origin of Yamadanishiki and brew sake with using the yeast. It was the time sake was losing its uniqueness by the difference of region.
Currently, young generations are renovating their breweries and going back to roots.
We previously introduced that one of the SAKEMARU family Senkin takes the water in center of brewing and use the rice produced in rice fields sharing the same water source with their brewery. As a proof, 12 breweries win the National New Sake Appraisal of 2017 with using other rice.
To talk about going back to roots in sake, we have to touch upon sake produced with eating rice. Its history is much longer than that of brewery rice and the share of production quality is much higher than that of brewery rice. It’s obviously difficult to produce high-quality sake with using eating rice, but they manage to do that.
I assume this is also a series of the trend going back to roots. And breweries are trying to contribute to the local economy and community by using local eating rice. In the following part, let’s study about the sake produced with eating rice.
Brewing sake with eating rice
First of all, it’s good to know that brewing sake with using the eating rice is very difficult. The main reason is the difference of components. It is said that fat and protein contains in rice tend to be off-notes and bad flavors. Since eating rice contains more protein and fat than the brewery rice, it’s difficult to control the quality of taste.
But, why they manage to use the eating rice. We assume there are 2 reasons.
Eating rice is cheaper and easier to get. Brewery rice accounts only 3% of entire production quantity of rice. However, the needs are increasing. Besides, it’s more difficult to produce high-grade brewery rice than eating rice, since the weight of grain of rice is much heavier and it’s very easy to fall down.
Breweries which have the strong confidence on their skill to control its excessive protein and fat can handle eating rice. It’s true that some breweries proactively use the eating rice. By knowing the characteristics of the rice, it’s possible to turn the excessive protein and fat into the complexity and make the layers of taste.
・Contribution to regional farmers
乾坤一（Kenkonichi）is one of the major brewery represents Miyagi prefecture. 80% of rice is local eating rice. This is extremely high rate. Since Miyagi prefecture had not have local brewery rice until 80s, it used to be very natural to brew sake with eating rice. Major brewery rice Yamadanishiki, Omachi are not suitable to grow in cold climate as Miayagi is.
Source）HEAVEN & EARTH
Beside with 乾坤一（Kenkonichi）, Miyagi prefecture has lots of breweries use eating rice for brewing. 内ヶ崎酒造（Uchigasaki shuzo）, which is brewery offers the sake of SAKEMARU’s special plan, is also one of the brewery.
By using eating rice for brewing, they are trying to contribute to the greatest number of local farmers.
TIPS）無印良品(MUJI) also produced a label of sake with using eating rice.
Drinking sake is also contributing to its region. Shall we drink sake with thinking of breweries, farmers and nature produced the sake?