In Praise of Fine Sake [vol.15] – Kurosawa Akira
A flavorsome full-bodied tribute to a Japanese citizen of the world
Japanese sake was originally a pure beverage made entirely from rice and water. This changed with the rice shortage following World War II and led to the emergence of imitation brews, called sanzoshu, which contained additives such as brewer’s alcohol diluted with water, acidifiers, and MSG. Cheap sanzoshu varieties became instant bestsellers, threatening the market for junmaishu. Despite this difficult situation, the Niida Honke brewery resolutely kept the faith. Believing that sake must be a “good and healthy drink”, the brewery has been producing junmaishu exclusively ever since 1711, using 100 percent naturally-grown (chemical-free) rice and water from natural sources. The Kurosawa Akira label was created to celebrate the centenary of the late film director’s birth, Niida Honke having been chosen as the brewer for this most worthy of commemorations.
The text on the suitably substantial bottle is in Kurosawa’s own hand, and as if to complement his robust, dynamic calligraphy, the sake’s flavor packs quite a punch. “Kurosawa Akira” brims with the intense flavor imparted by old-style yamahai-shikomi brewing, an intensity further sustained by a delicate balance of acidity and sweetness. Its slight golden tinge glows even more in the light, radiating an almost luxurious beauty. This is a sake with a quietly understated tone more reminiscent of oxidized silver than the dazzle and flash of the movie world.
“Kurosawa Akira” can be imbibed at almost any temperature. If drinking from a wine glass, the ideal room temperature is about 10°C. Overchill, and much of its rich rice character is lost. It is also excellent warm. Even heated to a slightly higher temperature than usual it remains robust, delighting the drinker by exhibiting different personalities at different temperatures.
When it comes to food options, “Kurosawa Akira” is best teamed with well-seasoned dishes, and is the perfect complement to a surprising range of food, from Japanese sukiyaki and simmered fish dishes to things like liver paste and pork rillettes, or even Chinese cuisine. Its possibilities as a meal accompaniment are truly endless. No discussion of sake is complete without sampling this brew.
●Seimaibuai (rice milling percentage): 70％
●Nihonshu-do(Sake Meter Value + dry, -sweet):＋1
●Amino acidity: 1.7
●Rice: Toyo-nishiki (100% Japanese-grown organic rice)
●Price: 5,250 yen (tax inclusive)
139 Takayashiki, Kanezawa, Tamura-machi
Koriyama-shi, Fukushima Prefecture
Text/ Kaori Haishi (sake sommelier) Photography/ Susumu Nagao