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  A SUPERB SIPPER WITH SUPPER
 

Premium Sakes
For All Seasons
Many "microbrew" sakes are at their best served cold -- but some take well to warming. To unravel the mysteries of sake, read on...and check out our featured sakes of the season, which include some unusual types, such as sparkling and aged sake.

The flavors of "premium" or "microbrew" sakes are wonderfully subtle and complex, and heating would have an adverse effect on many of them, dulling their marvelous nuances. Certain types of better sakes, however, really come into their own when warmed (though gradually, and never to the point of being really hot).

For the fall and winter we are featuring on this page a few sakes that show their finer facets when warmed -- their flavors bloom beautifully. Very full-bodied/full-flavored sakes or those that are somewhat aged -- a relatively uncommon feature -- reveal enhanced aromas and flavors through warming. Sake should be warmed by placing the opened bottle (if it's a small 300ml size), or some of the sake poured into a sake pitcher, in water that's been heated to boiling then removed from the burner. Never place the sake itself in a pot directly over a burner. Experiment with sake temperatures ranging from luke-warm to about 120 degrees Farenheit. Do not ever heat sake in a microwave oven -- the flavors will definitely be negatively altered.

When some of the heartier premium sakes are gently heated, the subtle interplays of their flavor elements express themselves in fascinatingly different ways depending on just how warm the sake is. The equivalent of the sommelier in finer restaurants in Japan is often expert in heating a particular sake to just the right temperature to accompany a specific dish.

Sake served chilled -- the norm for many premium sakes, especially at the Ginjo and Daiginjo levels (see below for definitions) -- can be a delicious revelation -- especially when paired with fish, vegetables, and refined pasta or rice dishes and other lighter foods beyond the realm of sushi and sashimi. They're lively and refreshing, stimulating the palate with their delicately intriguing flavors, no matter the weather.

Fine sakes from smaller individual artisanal breweries, often designated Tokubetsu Junmai, Junmai Ginjo or Junmai Daiginjo (see our Sake Primer below), are much more refined than mass-produced sakes. There are various significant differences in how they're made and how they taste. They take the pleasures of sake to a totally different level. While the labor-intensive and quality measures make them more expensive than industrial brands, we feel they're more than worth the difference in price -- and we hope you'll agree as you experiment with them.

There's an encouragingly open-minded movement among trendy restaurateurs (in non-Japanese restaurants) to include sakes on their wine lists -- mainly serving the Ginjo and Daiginjo bottlings chilled, to retain all the nuances of their exquisitely subtle flavors. These artisinal sakes are turning up not only in restaurants featuring raw bars or Asian cuisine, but also in a range of establishments where there is an informed inventiveness in wine and food pairing.

What we refer to as "premium" or "microbrew" sakes are made in relatively small quantities, by small producers, using specially selected varieties of rice, from which much of the grain is milled away to leave the most pure and delicately flavored heart of the rice. You can learn more about how they're produced in our "Sake Primer."

We've significantly increased the sake selection at Prospect in the past year to include several more microbrews in a range of styles. We've chosen 4 delectable sakes here that take well to warming, and are of course excellent chilled, to introduce you to a variety of styles. A more extensive listing of our sakes follows the featured ones -- and we encourage you to come into the shop to see our full range. If you're new to premium sake, you might enjoy perusing our "Sake Primer" to help you appreciate the different bottlings we offer. We hope you enjoy expanding your sake horizons!

A SAKE PRIMER

Sake is generally thought of as wine, even though it is brewed from a grain (rice), as is beer.

Many elements in sake-making influence its quality: the origin, variety and degree of milling of the rice, the nature of the water used in brewing, the fermentation temperature, the type of koji (rice malt: a mold containing enzymes that convert rice starches to sugars), the yeast strain, the gentleness of filtration.

Sake rice varieties are different from those for eating; the starch is concentrated in the center of the grain. For finer sakes a significant portion of the grain is polished away -- the outer parts that contain what are considered undesirable fat and protein.

The fermentation itself proceeds in several stages. A starter is created by adding yeast to a mixture of water, rice and koji, with perhaps some lactic acid; this develops over a couple of weeks.

The koji mold will have been cultivated on specially steamed rice for up to two days, then added, with plain rice, usually in three batches, to the fermenting sake mixture. More water, rice and koji are added in a larger tank for the continuing fermentation of the sake, which might take up to a month or so.

The fully fermented sake is then filtered and water is usually added to dilute the sake down from the 17%-20% natural alcohol level to about 15%. After bottling, sake is aged briefly -- usually for about six months -- before shipping, to smooth it out a bit.

Each of these stages is quite complex and delicate and is carried out under the supervision of a toji, the chief sake maker.

 
 
Junmai
Literally, "pure rice"-- these sakes are brewed using only rice, water, koji and yeast; no alcohol is added.
Tokubetsu
This word is usually seen accompanying "Junmai" and means "special." It designates sake made from rice milled to 65% or less of its volume.
Ginjo
At least 40% of each rice grain has been ground away in the polishing process; quality control is greater all down the line, including fermenting at lower temperatures and pressing by hand.
Daiginjo
At least 50% of each rice grain has been polished away. All of the stages of fermentation are handled with great care, and the resulting sake is light and delicate.
Nama
Unpasturized sake, which must be kept cold; it has an especially fresh flavor.
Nigori
Sake that is cloudy because some of the rice and koji rice from fermentation are not filtered out.

Harushika
Tokimeki
"Fall in Love"
(Bihappo Junmai)
(Nara)
$14.99 [300ml]
A delightful sparkling sake that is brightly refreshing -- all the more so because of its low alcohol content (6-7%). Its flavors recall summery sorbets -- in flavors of lemon, or white or yellow melon, with just a soupçon of sweetness. Serve chilled and keep refrigerated (only lightly pasteurized -- almost Nama).

Ichinokura
Himezen
"Princess"
(Junmai)
(Miyagi)
$26.99 [500ml]
Also a low alcohol sake (8%) -- a treat for those who like their sake not too dry. Clear and lively but subtle citrus notes hinting at pineapple and passionfruit lead to a crisp and lightly pithy finish. The texture is seductively suave.

Kaika
Kazeno Ichirin
"Flower in the Wind"(Junmai Ginjo)
(Tochigi)
$28.99 [500ml]
From the oldest brewery in Tochigi prefecture, founded in 1673, comes this very flavorful but delicate sake with a gently smooth texture. The brewers themselves cultivate the special Wakamizu and Omachi rice, and Kaika's spring water has been named one of the 100 best waters in Japan. The Kaika sakes are distinctive for their fruit aromas and flavors, and the Kazeno Ichirin hints at Asian pear and strawberry, with subtly nutty notes adding appealing complexity.

Hanahoto
Kijoshu
"Gorgeous Bird"
(Junmai Kijoshu)
(Hiroshima)
$41.99 [500ml]
A rare and truly extraordinary aged sake. Eight years of maturation yield a luxurious liquid treat that recalls a refined, medium-sweet Oloroso Sherry. Richly redolent of crème caramel, coffee, chocolate, walnuts, chestnuts, dark honey and dried fruits, it still manages to feel clear and lively on the palate. This exquisitely complex Kijoshu would make a wonderfully unusual dessert wine or after dinner drink, served chilled or on the rocks.


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Prospect's Current Collection of
Premium Sakes

We've indicated, in many instances, whether the sake is best served chilled (C) or can be enjoyed both chilled and warmed (C or W)

Akitabare Koshiki Juntsukuri "Northern Skies" Junmai (300ml)
- $10.99 (C)
Akitabare Koshiki Juntsukuri "Northern Skies" Junmai (720ml)
- $23.99 (C)
Chiyonosono "Sacred Power" Junmai Ginjo (300ml) - $23.99 (C)
Dewazakura "Sakura Boy" Mini-Daiginjo (300ml) - $15.99 (C)
Dewazakura Oka "Cherry Bouquet" Ginjo (720ml) - $30.99 (C)
Dewazakura Dewasansan "Green Ridge" Ginjo (720ml) - $32.99 (C)
Fukucho "Moon on the Water" Junmai Ginjo (300ml) - $20.99 (C)
Fukucho "Moon on the Water" Junmai Ginjo (720ml) - $41.99 (C)
Fukunishiki "Happy Fortune" Junmai (720ml) - $17.99 (C or W)
Gokyo "Five Bridges" Junmai (720ml) - $29.99 (C or W)
Hanamoto Kijoshu Junmai Kijoshu (500ml) - $41.99 (C)
Harushika Extra Dry "Spring Deer" Junmai (720ml) - $25.99 (C)
Harushika Tokimeki "Spring Deer - Fall in Love" Bihappo Junmai (300ml)
- $14.99 (C)
Hitorimusume Nigori (300ml) - $10.99 (C)
Hitorimusume Nigori (720ml) - $22.99 (C)
Hitorimusume Sayaka "Only One Daughter" Junmai (300ml)
- $7.99 (C or W)
Hitorimusume Sayaka "Only One Daughter" Junmai (720ml)
- $26.99 (C or W)
Hoyo Kura No Hana "Fair Maiden" Daiginjo (500ml) - $28.99 (C)
Hoyo Tokubetsu Junmai (720ml) - $26.99 (C or W)
Hoyo Manamusume "Farmer's Daughter" Junmai (720ml) - $21.99
Ichinokura Himezen "Princess" Junmai (500ml) - $26.99 (C)
Ichinokura Taru [cedar barrel aged] (500ml) - $25.99 (C or W)
Jizake Tenzan Junmai Genshu (720ml) - $38.99 (C or W)
Kaika Kazeno Ichirin Junmai Ginjo (500ml) $28.99 (C)
Kamoizumi "Autumnal Elixir" Junmai Daiginjo (500ml) - $27.99 (C)
Kamoizumi Komekome "Happy Bride" (500ml) - $23.99 (C)
Kamoizumi Nigori (500ml) - $23.99 (C)
Kamoizumi Shusen "Three Dot" Junmai (900ml) - $26.99 (C or W)
Kariho Namahage "Devil's Mask" Junmai (720ml) - $26.99 (C or W)
Kitaya Ai No Hime Beni (180ml) - $8.99 (C)
Kitaya Junmai (720ml) -$19.99 (C or W)
Kitaya Junmai (300ml) - $9.99 (C or W)
Koshi No Sasameyuki Junmai (720ml) $22.99 (C or W)
Masumi Okuden Kantsukuri "Mirror of Truth" Junmai (720ml)
- $25.99 (C or W)
Meibo Yowano Tsuki "Midnight Moon" Junmai Ginjo (500ml)
- $22.99 (C)
Meisosui Junmai Ginjo (720ml) - $33.99
Mineno Hakubai "White Plum Blossom" Junmai (720ml)
- $26.99 (C or W)
Nanbu Bijin "Southern Beauty" Junmai Ginjo (720ml) - $39.99 (C)
Nanbu Touji Tokubetsu Junmai [Organic] (720ml) - $26.99 (C)
Niwa No Uguisu Tokubetsu Junmai (720ml) - $24.99 (C)
Ohyama " Big Mountain" Tokubetsu Junmai (720ml) - $26.99 (C or W)
Otokoyama "Man's Mountain" Tokubetsu Junmai (720ml)
- $25.99 (C or W)
Rihaku "Dreamy Clouds"Nigori Tokubetsu Junmai (300ml)
- $17.99 (C)
Rihaku "Wandering Poet" Junmai Ginjo (300ml) - $17.99 (C)
Rihaku "Wandering Poet" Junmai Ginjo (720ml) - $35.99 (C)
Sato No Homare "Pride of the Village" Junmai Ginjo (300ml)
- $25.99 (C)
Sawanotsuru Zuicho (1.8 Liter) - $37.49 (C or W)
Shintaro Junmai Ginjo (720ml) - $23.99 (C)
Shirataki "White Waterfall" Junmai (300ml) - $9.99 (C or W)
Shirayuki Nama (300ml) - $5.99 (C)
Taihei-Zan Kimoto "Grand Mountain" Junmai (720ml)
- $24.99 (C or W)
Tedorigawa Yamahai "Silver Mountain" Junmai (720ml)
- $26.99 (C or W)
Tsukasabotan "King of Peony" Junmai (720ml) - $22.99 (C or W)
Ugo No Tsuki Tokubetsu Junmai (720ml) - $22.99 (C)
Wakatake Onikoroshi "Demon Slayer" Daiginjo (720ml) - $38.99 (C)
Zen Tokubetsu Junmai (720ml) - $23.99 (C)