There's no such thing as a bad sake.
So said the late Takao Nihei, the man who revived sake-brewing in the U.S. following WWII. And judging by their enthusiastic reactions, none of the attendees at last month's Joy of Sake extravaganza in New York City looked ready to argue with Nihei's declaration.
The fifth annual "Joy of Sake" event, held at SoHo's luxurious Puck Building, featured 210 sakes in the largest sake tasting held outside of Japan. It also featured a wide spectrum of sakes not currently available in the U.S. including namazake, or unpasteurized sake.
More than a dozen local restaurants also participated by offering appetizers like sushi and kobe beef to accompany the sakes on display. The list of high-profile restaurants included: Bao 111, Bond Street, Geisha, Hasaki, Kai, Ono, Riingo, Sakagura, Sumile, Sushi Samba and Tocqueville. Artisanal even provided samples of some of its world famous cheeses to accompany the host of sake. (Similar-themed events were held in San Francisco and Honolulu.)
The sakes presented for sampling displayed a wide variety of styles in the junmai, ginjo and daiginjo categories, and included gold and silver award winners from the 2005 U.S. National Sake Appraisal. Every year, a panel of American and Japanese wine and spirits professionals conducts the appraisal.Three master sommeliers were among this year's sake appraisal judges: Roger Dagorn of Chanterelle in New York, Larry Stone of Rubicon in San Francisco and Hawaii's only master sommelier Chuck Furuya.
How to Make Saki
Sake consists of 80% pure water, mostly found in the sake-producing regions of Japan such as Fushimi, Nada, Hiroshima and Niigata. The water from which sake is brewed has a tremendous effect on its flavor. Mellow, rounded sakes tend to be made from soft water, while crisp, dry ones use hard water containing more minerals.
The other two ingredients are rice and koji. The rice used in producing sake is different from the regular rice consumed for food. It's a much larger grain requiring more water and greater protection from the elements.