Niigata Prefecture has the largest number of sake breweries in Japan and is the third largest producer of sake.
Niigata sake is sold in liquor stores and supermarkets across the country.
Many people think of Niigata in terms of rice and sake.
In this article, we will thoroughly analyse why Niigata's sake is so delicious. We will unravel the reasons for Niigata's reputation as a sake-producing region.
Table of Contents
- What are the characteristics of Niigata's sake?
- Why Niigata's sake is so good
- Try Niigata's sake!
- SAKEPOST, a sake subsk, where you can taste a little bit of Niigata's sake each time you visit.
What are the characteristics of Niigata's sake?
Niigata sake is a light, dry sake with a refreshing flavour. It has been loved throughout the country as an everyday sake to drink with food.
However, it was in the 1950s that the image of Niigata's sake as light and dry was developed. Before that time, many people in the prefecture were engaged in physical work such as farming, and sweet sake was popular. However, in the 1950s, more and more people worked at desks, and refreshing sake became more popular. From there, light, dry sake gradually increased. So Niigata's sake breweries changed their sake production to meet the needs of the times.
Why Niigata's sake is so good
So why is it that Niigata's sake is now so popular throughout the country? From here, let's unpack the reasons in detail.
Sake rice harvested in Niigata, a rice-producing region.
Niigata Prefecture ranks first in the country in terms of rice production. Niigata Koshihikari rice, with its firm consistency and sweetness, is highly regarded throughout the country. The reason for producing such tasty rice is the fertile soil, the climate with large temperature differences and mineral-rich melt water. Niigata's natural environment and unique climate produce rice that is glossy, fluffy and well cooked.
Niigata Prefecture continues to produce such delicious rice. Sake rice, the raw material for Japanese sake, is also widely produced. Sake rice varieties such as Gohyakumangoku and Koshitanrei were developed independently and are now used by many sake breweries in the prefecture.
Mineral-rich melted snow water
Water is an essential ingredient in sake brewing. Soft water, including mineral-rich melt water, is used for sake brewing in Niigata. Brewing with hard water tends to produce a thicker flavour, whereas soft water tends to produce a lighter taste. So the soft water, which is common in Niigata, was perfect for the light dry sake with a clean and refreshing taste.
Niigata winters are ideal for micro-organisms.
In winter, many mountainous areas of Niigata Prefecture get as much as 3 metres of snow. Snow is hard on people, but it is good for sake. Low temperatures not only purify the air and prevent bacteria, but also create an optimum environment for micro-organisms such as yeast and koji bacteria. It is precisely because the environment is suitable for long-term fermentation at low temperatures that we are able to produce delicious sake.
Sake research and technology in Niigata.
In the past, people involved in sake brewing in Niigata enjoyed a high reputation as 'Echigo Toji', who travelled across the country in winter. Starting in the Edo period, the 'Echigo Toji' travelled to 26 prefectures, mainly in the Kanto and Chubu regions, and by the early Meiji period they had become the largest group of toji in the country.
To further develop the skills of these toji, the Niigata Brewing Experiment Station was established in 1930. The existence of this brewery was behind Niigata sake's rise to fame. In addition, Niigata Prefecture established the 'Niigata Sake School' as a 'brewer's school', which is unprecedented in the country. Brewery managers, toji (master brewers) and brewing technicians provide technical guidance to young people working in the prefecture's breweries.
Try Niigata's sake!
When you unravel the background in this way, you can see that a variety of factors combine to produce delicious sake. If you find Niigata sake at a liquor store near your home, or in a supermarket, give it a try!
SAKEPOST, a sake subsk, where you can taste a little bit of Niigata's sake each time you visit.
Niigata sake has become famous for its light, dry taste, but in recent years a wide range of sake has been sold, from sweet to rich. Sake subs SAKEPOST allows you to taste a little bit of each of these Niigata sakes, and if you find that buying a four-pack means you end up with a lot to drink, try SAKEPOST, which offers three 100 ml bottles.
SAKEPOST, a sake subscription service.
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