Our preliminary aim of today was to spend sometime learning more about Sake and other Japanese beverages, including wine.
Over the past few years or so, Sake has become something of a hot topic for us and something that we do find a truly remarkable tipple. We were first introduced to it via our work with the International Wine Challenge, including a spell out in Japan. Since then, we have always made room in our itineraries whenever Sake is available, to go sample and find out more.
So, at 10.00am bright and breezy, we headed over to the ‘Japan Pavilion‘ to do just that!
And what better way to start the day than with a nice cold glass of fizz! Hang on, aren’t we supposed to be focusing on Sake? Oh yes indeedy! Sparkling Sake is where it’s at don’t you know! Happoshu is the name of this Sake style, and the guys at Okanaga Co Ltd were on hand to provide just that!
Before we introduce our selection, here’s a quick re-cap on the different styles of Sake
And now the beverages:
Ichinokura Suzune Wabi Sparkling Sake 5% – Apparently this fizz won a trophy award in the recent 2018 International Wine Challenge 2018 Sparkling Sake category, and the brewery also last year won the ‘Brewer of the Year’ award, so not a bad choice in which to begin then. It underwent a second fermentation in the bottle. Light, delicate and fresh with apple and pear fruits, soft and candied – lovely for a summer morning tipple!
Here’s one or two Sake’s that we tried:
Otokoyama Kitap no Inao Daiginjo 16% – Textured with peach and melon fruits, fresh with hints of milky rice
Narutitai Ginjo Shiboritate Namagenshu Ginjo Namagenshu 18.5% – This comes in a rather attractive 720ml can! Unpasteurised. Finesse, delicacy and vibrant freshness and subtle tropical fruits, curvy textures smoothly embracing every part of the palate
Daishinsyu NAC Hitogokochi Junmai Ginjo 16% – Vibrant with ripe tropical fruit, and a textured fresh mouthfeel
Daishinsyu Teippai Junmai Daiginjo 16% – Now, just sit back and relax… smooth, refined, cool, fresh, milk rice, ooooeeer!
Daishinsyu Shisui Ryusen Junmai Daiginjo 16% – Cool, silky, fresh melon fruit… more please – now!
It was now time for a bit of Sake and Food Matching with a masterclass hosted by Federica Zanghirella who is the Vice President of the UK Sommelier Association to ‘discover how Sake’s acidity levels, umami component and serving temperatures demand a different, but immensely rewarding, approach to food and wine pairing’.
Here before us were four different types of Sake plus four often ‘difficult’ foods to pair with wine. The emphasis today was to demonstrate how the right type of Sake can pair with these foods.
Federica highlighted that Sake has five main components:
- Sweetness (Amami) to soften spice and enhance creaminess
- Dryness (Karami) to contrast saltiness in food
- Bitterness (Nigami) to soften fishy tastes
- Acidity (Sanmi) to cut through oil and break down fats in meat
- Astringency (Shibumi) to balance fattiness/act as a balancing agent
Umami is another term frequently used in both wine and Sake tasting – the word which means ‘tasty’ is a tasting component that closely knits to foods that have a savoury taste such as soy sauce, cooked mushrooms, marmite, Parmesan cheese, etc, and Sake is said to work well with this component.
The first pairing was a Tonoike Shuzoten Co Ltd, Sanran Daiginjo (Sanran 38) 18% with rock salt. The freshness and power of the alcohol stood up firmly to the salt, with the sake still remaining fresh and textured
Next we had Gekkeikan Sake Co Ltd Iwaimai Daigingo 14% – Brewed from 100% Iwai rice (a rare variety of Sake rice grown exclusively in Kyoto) and the mineral water from Kyoto’s Fushimi district. This was paired with artichoke. Pale lemon green with pineapple notes and quite a dry palate. With the artichoke, the Sake becomes more fresher and brings out the flavours in the vegetable
Next, Akashi Sake Brewery Co Ltd Akashi-Tai Junmai Ginjo Sparkling 7% – Bottle fermented and slightly cloudy. Paired with Parmesan cheese – now this really worked – who’da thought?!? Crisp, with light white flower and milky rice – with the cheese, the sparkle and acidity cut through the dustiness of the Parmesan – nice!
And finally – Akashi Sake Brewery Co Ltd Akashi-Tai Gingjo Umeshu Liqueur 14% – This is a sweet plum infused drink, using Gingjo grade Sake to gently extract the fruit essence. After being marinated for 6 months, the fruit is then removed, and then left to age for a further 2 years. Amber, with soft plum, mango, and apricot fruit entwined with Amaretto. Very smooth and mouth coating. With liver paté – the liqueur takes away the bitterness of the paté and softens out the dustiness with its smooth textures, as well as having a pleasing effect on the fattiness
Having our first for knowledge now in full overdrive, and with a need to know more, we headed back to the Pavillon in order to sample some Japanese wines. Guest Wines are very familiar with the Koshu grape variety and of its wines. This variety is now readily available in most leading wine stores and supermarkets, and a variety that we have included in many a tasting over the years. Therefore, this seemed like an appropriate way in which to set off proceedings before moving onto lesser-known grape varieties and their resulting wines.
Much like the Sake earlier, we began with a fizz!
Lumière Sparkling Koshu, Yamanashi Japan 10.5% – Traditional Method with 12 months spent on its lees. Spicy, fresh with persistent bubbles showing of green apple and ripe melon fruits
Lumière Koshu Hikari 2017, Yamanashi Japan 11% – Soft, spicy peach and apricots, lifted by freshness
Lumière Prestige Class Orange wine 2016, Yamanashi Japan 10% – Made from Koshu. Light, crisp with delicate fruits and a slight grip from the tannins towards the finish
And if that wasn’t different enough, how about these:
L’escargot Garnet 2014, Yamanashi-ken Japan – A blend of the red Kyoto grape and ‘other’ whites with CO2 introduced by being pumped into the wine. Light with a red fruit nose and sour red fruits on the palate, a touch of tannins held up by fresh acidity – simple
L’escargot Yahiko Muscat Bailey A 2017, Yamanashi-ken Japan – A very popular grape variety in Japan but not heard of elsewhere. It was sold to us as a dessert wine, though in reality, it was more off-dry than sweet. Floral with a slight pepperiness, with red berry fruits and decent acid to give it some structure. A tad on the simple and disjointed side
L’escargot Delaware 2017, Yamanashi-ken Japan – Light, delicate herb, hedgerow and melon fruit with just a slight hint of tannins on the finish
L’escargot Al 2015, Hirosaki Aomori (Honshu Island) Japan – Al is the variety here and providing us with a deep ruby wine that was fairly closed on the nose, with dark fruits showing on the palate and grippy tannins, which became more of a feature than the fruit
And what better way to complete our Japanese beverage learning curve than with a seminar all about a liqueur made from the Ume peach.
Here, Choya Umeshu Co Ltd took us through four style of liqueur, three being Umeshu and the fourth a citrus infused Yuzu
Choya Extra Years (with actual Ume plums included) 17% – The fruit does have a very intense and distinctive taste to it, rich, ripe, with chocolate tart pastries, amaretto, and smooth rice
Choya Aged 3 Years 15% – Smooth bitter chocolate and amaretto – warming feel from the alcohol
Choya Single Year 15% – Lifted, savoury, tart but sweet at the same time, honeyed and medicinal
Choya Yuzu 23% – Yuzu (Citrus junos) is a citrus fruit plant that originates from East Asia. Zesty, zippy and floral with plenty of tension and power
We think it’s fair to say that we covered some ground there, and somewhere that we shall be most certainly returning to, although probably not so much with some of those exotic grape varieties – as they probably suit being in a bowl on a table much better!
So, where to go now after that? Well, we thought that we would go back to our roots and revisit English Wines, as Danielle Whitehead from Plumpton College was presenting a masterclass on The Future of English Wine.
The aim of this talk was all about English Wines next steps into the big wide world of wine. From its recent early beginnings, to shooting towards fine wine stardom when it comes to it’s fizz, where now?
Eyebrows have been raised at the notion of the pub chain Weatherspoon’s throwing out all their Champagne (but not Prosecco – where patriotism and profit don’t necessarily go hand in hand hey Tim!), by stocking their shelves with English fizz instead as a nod to their approval of Brexit (er hem), then there’s talk of making a Charmat Method fizz. Whatever next Bacchus in a can!?!
To further the debate is the playing around with PDO recognition – a tad too early we think and what terroir criteria is this actually based on – we can’t see much apart from the notion that somehow regional boundaries are enough to convince that this equates to geographical difference and significance (er hem).
Whilst experimentation and innovation is a welcome thing, and we should keep on doing this, but it has to be said that facts and figures are showing that it is with the premium sparkling wine sector that English Wine does best. There are fears, that this image could be tarnished by playing around too much with lower price point wines, though the consumer may argue differently. However, it is important that English Wine maintains the rather good image it has managed to enshroud itself with in such a short time, after many years of being poked fun at, it would therefore be a shame to lose its new image.
On show where wines familiar to us, so instead of writing them as tasting notes, we’ll simply list them:
Plumpton Estate Brut Classic NV, Sussex England 12.5%
Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2010, Sussex England 12%
Hattingley Valley Valley Rosé 2014, Hampshire England 12.5%
Plumpton Estate Bacchus 2015, Sussex England 11.5%
Bolney Lychgate White 2017, Sussex England 12%
With our palates well and truly cleansed, it was time to beef things up a little with a masterclass presentation by Matt Walls
Remarkable Rhônes were the order of the day, with a selection of wines from across the region that Matt felt gave a good representation of what is out there. He was also keen to point out that value for money Rhône wines are excellent value, especially when it comes to top of the range examples.
Colombo Saint-Péray La Belle de Mai 2016 13.5% – A blend of 60% Roussanne 40% Marsanne – 10% new oak. Pale lemon, quite closed on the nose but more giving on the palate with textured honeyed lemon, pollen, camomile flower and just a hint of vanilla
Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2016 13.5% – A blend of 80% Rousanne 15% Grenache Blanc 5% Picardan 5% Clairette 5% Bourboulenc. 30% barrel fermented. An assertive wine with lots of presence. Ripe yellow fruit that really fills out on the palate, lemon citrus and rich apricots become more evident towards the finish
Delas Ventoux 2016 14% – A blend of Grenache and Syrah. Grown in an area where it can get very cool during the night thus, retaining decent acidity to produce this bright medium ruby wine with with lots of fresh juicy strawberry and raspberry fruit, a nice tension from the acidity and just a tickle of fine tannins brought about by adding a percentage of stems to the must during fermentation
Domaine des Carabiniers Lirac Rouge 2017 13.5% – 50% Grenache 25% Syrah 25% Mourvèdre. Fragrant with plenty of floral violet notes, strawberry and blueberry fruits collide with a hint of spice. Harmonious
Domaine de Lises Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2016 13% – 100% Syrah racked into used Burgundy barrels for 12 months. Clean, precise with blackberry fruit aplenty, an underscore of violet is lifted on a wave of acidity, which is brought down to earth by finely grained tannins
Jean-Paul Jamet Côte-Rôtie 2015 13.5% – 100% Syrah which has spent 20 months in barrel 10% new. 20 parcel blend with stems included. A little shy on the nose, giving way to delicate blackberry and raspberry fruit, hints of violet and wild herb with squeaky clean acidy and super fine tannins – this wine is still very young and has a long way ahead of it yet
Next up was Simon J Woolf with a masterclass featuring Orange Wine – he’s even written a book about the subject and probably the first to do so, as this style of wine now steps out from the shadows, and is beginning to receive a wider accepting audience, hurrah!
Now, you would think that this would mean that this type of wine is relatively new, but you would be wrong, in fact, this sort of wine probably goes all the way back to the origins of wine and wine making, and to top that, it never really went away, rather not instead got shunted into some backwater as a preference for clear squeaky whites became the order of the day.
Simon was also quick to point out that Orange Wine is NOT necessarily a ‘natural’ wine, but some are. We recently heard a wine critic refer to natural wines as ‘mostly dirty wines made by people wearing stripy jumpers’ quite condescending but not without its merits, but we hasten to add that many non-natural wines could have this statement attached to them. On the whole, natural wines are very good and made with a high standard of care. Much criticism about these owes isn’t necessarily about their integrity but more to do with the wine establishment getting to grips with ‘something different’.
Orange Wines are also not oxidised like many like to think they are. Yes, there are wines made deliberate with exposure to air, think Jura for example but this is not the case with these types of wine.
Orange Wines are not always produced in Amphora – some are, others are made in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and barrel.
Orange Wines ARE white grape varieties that have been fermented on their skins – the length on time spent on their skins will depend very much on variety and style of wine being sought by the producer.
There, we hope that’s cleared up one or two points!
Eschenhof Holzer, Invader Orange Müller-Thurgau 2016, Großriedenthal Wagram Austria – We recently had this when we visited a cousin of ours, she was desperate to impress us with her choice of wine, and she truly did just that! Therefore, it was great to come back to it once again. 3 weeks skin contact, pale gold with floral notes and fresh herb, with pleasant dusty tannins running right through
Cà de Noci, Notte di Luna 2015, Emilia-Romagna Italy – 50% Moscato Giallo 30% Spergola 20% Malvasia Aromatica – skin contact for 5 days. Pale amber with lifted nose, apricot tart and stewed apple fruits, tangy yeasty notes add interest, lifted and fresh
Le Soula La Macération Blanc 2016, Terroir d’altitude, Vin du Fenouillèdes, Vin de France Villages de Feilluns et Saint Martin 12.5% – 75 % Vermentino 22 % Macabeu 3 % Sauvignon. This is actually a blend of six vintages due to the harvest being a poor one that year – it contains fruit from 2011, 12,13,14 and 2015. Bright golden amber with rich ripe fruit, textured mouthfeel with tropical fruit burst, fresh honey and herbal aromatics with decent acidity
Cuvée Ana Mleenik 2010, Vipava Slovenia – 100% Ribolla Gialla – 3 day skin contact (the variety has very thick skins, so it is down to the winemaker to get the right amount of extraction). Medium amber with quite a subdued nose with the wine becoming more generous on the palate with plenty of rip fruits and rich textures, and run through with finely grained tannins
Dario Prinčič Ribolla Gialla 2015, Venezia Giulia IGT Italy – Bright amber with ripe fruits and a gentle smidgen of caramel, add a few earthy tones and a dusting of herb, held in check by grainy tannins and crisp acidity
Alaverdi Tradition Orange Dry 2017, Kakheti-Georgia 14.5% – 100% Rkatsiteli. Bright, lifted and fragrant erring on the pungent side. Very ripe tropical fruits dance eerily with freshly cut herbs, honey spice and nutty nuances – plenty of presence!
With this tasting almost wrapping things up for another year, we did have enough time to head over to a ‘Go Go Bojo‘ Beaujolais self-pour! Hey, why not!
Having only recently done a rather good Beaujolais tasting, rather than list all the wines we tasted today, we thought that we would just pick one. As most wines from this region are meant to be drunk young, it was great to see a wine with a bit more age to it, ten years in fact! And so it is with this wine that we say goodbye to imbibe Live for another year!
Château des Jacques Moulin-à-Vent Clos de Rochegrès 2008 13% – Part de-stemmed and aged for 12 months in barrel. Garnet with a lovely heady perfume of wild strawberries, liquorice stick and herb, and still with much acidity and grippy tannins – it may go even further! By-heck!