Sake sips and pairings

I tend to share most of my sake sipping, adventures and pairings on Instagram but thought it might be nice to share just some of those here too… (please note… this page is a work in progress and will also feature ‘A LOT’ of cheese and sake pairings – if you have never tried sake and cheese together, I highly recommend it).

Sake is so incredibly versatile and one of the most food friendly beverages out there. Sake vary rarely fights with food, making it pretty easy to drink alongside a variety of dishes. Working out which pairings are truly magic (to you) is all part of the fun and once you start to discover just how well sake can be paired with food, you’ll want to keep exploring… there are limitless possibilities. Happy sake sipping!

Biden Kojo from Mii no Kotobuki in Fukuoka Prefecture, paired with Occelli Testun cheese

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of pairing cheese and Sake, or that the two go very well together. Every so often, however, you come across a pairing of this nature that is an absolute standout!

This deliciously decadent cheese; Occelli Testun al Malto d’Orzo e Whiskey, (made using cows and goats milk), from Piedmont (Piemonte) in Italy, is coated in malted barley and whiskey (for a rustic appearance and flavour), then aged for 14-16 months.
It has a strong, heady aroma, with a rich mouthfeel full of complex flavours on the palate. This milky, fudgy cheese has wonderful malty, nutty flavours, with hints of whiskey, smoke and coffee.

Suggested pairings on the packaging were Whiskey or a Dark Ale. This straight away led me to believe this cheese would pair well with a Koshu (aged Sake).
I decided to try it alongside Biden Kojo from Mii no Kotobuki in Fukuoka, Japan.

This incredible Sake is aged for 2 years before it’s released. This particular bottle was from 2016.
For me, most Koshu is so much better when experienced alongside food, however, sometimes, finding the perfect balance of flavours when pairing can be a little tricky. Some Koshu can overwhelm certain flavours in a dish. Some of my go-to foods when pairing with aged sake are cheese (obviously), chocolate, candied nuts, dried fruit and gamey meats. Balance is the key to any pairing, and in this case, what was unlocked with this particular pairing was something quite special!

The strong flavours of the cheese stood up well to the strong flavours of the Sake without either being too dominant. An amazing wave of umami waltzing across the palate, with all those strong flavours harmonising so well together. The cheese bringing out sweeter notes in the Sake, almost giving it a Whiskey-like character that danced with the malty notes of the cheese. The Sake bringing out more of those delicious coffee notes in the cheese, with the combination also forming hints of cacao. SO GOOD!

Biden Kojo koshu is available in Australia via Black Market Sake.

Moriki Shuzo’s Tae no Hana Yamahai with homemade potato salad

An inspired pairing during lockdown… This scenario was totally inspired by watching an Instagram LIVE video chat between two amazingly inspiring women in the sake world: Marie Chiba and Miho Imada.

I am a huge fan of Miho’s sake but had no Fukucho in the house today – so instead, opted for a bottle produced by another amazing woman in the sake world, Rumiko Moriki. 

This absolutely incredible Junmai Ginjo Yamahai Muroka Nama Genshu Arabashiri is made with Omachi rice, polished to 60% ~ and it paired so well with both the Picnic Point with Cumin (semi hard sheep’s cheese) and my home made potato salad, inspired by watching Marie Chiba’s creation. I was all out of a few things from Chiba’s recipe so I had to improvise… I used Sichuan pepper instead of Sansho and was pleasantly surprised and pleased with the outcome. Also added some Nori (dried seaweed) which worked well.
I am a huge fan of Moriki sake and also of Yamahai style sake as I find them, mostly, to be incredibly versatile and food friendly when pairing them with all types of savoury dishes (and some sweet ones too). I am far more a savoury tooth than a sweet tooth and I enjoyed the way this sake was able to stand up to some strong flavours without overpowering them. Both the sake and the flavours in the food complimented each other nicely ~ allowing my tastebuds to thoroughly enjoy the party!

YUHO Yamaoroshi paired with tuna patties

This was part experiment, and part Friday night comfort food during lockdown in Melbourne.
Tinned tuna is something that is always in our pantry and I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s often a bit of a staple and something used in a snack when we are in a hurry or can’t be bothered being creative in the kitchen.

Some time ago, I was a ‘pescatarian’ for 17 years and was also working long hospitality shifts for the bulk of this time… Tinned tuna was one of my best friends back in those days of coming home around midnight… or 2am, and being so tired but too hungry to go to bed without a midnight snack.
It is one food though that I have never really thought went particularly well with sake. On a few occasions when I just happen to ‘have a glass of Sake in my hand’ and just happen to also be eating something with tinned tuna, I’ve often found the combination can produce a kind of ‘metallic’ flavour on the palate.
During the a Taste with the Tōji with Mioya Shuzo in Ishikawa Prefecture, Miho Fujita showed us some examples of snack style dishes that pair well with her Sake (YUHO). One of the dishes featured tinned tuna. It was a shiitake mushroom stuffed with tinned tuna, egg and cheese.
With an opened bottle of YUHO Sake in the fridge, but all out of shiitake mushrooms, I was curious to try something ‘similar’.
I decided on ‘comfort food/TV dinner’ style tuna patties, glammed up with some avocado, kewpie and daikon.
The Sake: Mioya Shuzo’s YUHO ‘Yamaoroshi’ Junmai Ginjo Kimoto Muroka Nama Genshu. This one is 2017, 2 years older than the one opened during the TWTT online event. This Sake ages well, and, I have to say, was a pretty good pairing with the ol’ tinned tuna. I love that even after drinking sake for so many years, it is still full of surprises!

Mioya Shuzo’s YUHO brand sake is available in Australia via Black Market Sake.

Hanatomoe Yon-Dan from Miyoshino Jozo in Nara Prefecture paired with duck breast

This Sake from Miyoshino Jozo has long been a favourite. This Hanatomoe Yon-Dan Junmai Yamahai Yon-Dan Shikomi Muroka Nama Genshu possesses many of the things I love in a sake!

Rich fruity aromas with hints of rice and a seductive waft of alcohol, this Sake packs a punch with its full bodied palate and generous acidity. A lovely balance of sweetness and umami with a wonderful depth of flavour. This sake paired beautifully with this roast duck breast, resting on a bed of dupuy lentils with an orange jus. Both the dish and the sake offering complex layers of aromas and flavours that harmonised well together. A beautiful balance of sweet and savoury.

Hanatomoe sake is available in Australia via Black Market Sake.

Tae no Hana Kimoto sake from Moriki Shuzo in Mie Prefecture with cheese and fresh figs

I purchased this Sake last month from Ginza Kimijimaya In Tokyo. The label had me at Junmai (70% seimai buai) from Moriki Shuzō in Mie prefecture, then at Kimoto… throw in Muroka, Nama and Genshu at a solid 18% abv, and there was no way this Sake wasn’t coming home with me.
It traveled well. 👌
I had high expectations of this Sake and it sure did not disappoint.
Big funky nose, proudly displaying it’s ‘Nama-ness’ and Kimoto character… there’s lactic, alcohol and rice notes, and I’d go as far as to say a ‘meatiness’ on the nose. Palate is big and lively, lots of savoury deliciousness, higher alcohol certainly noticeable but not in a bad way – it suits the character of this Sake. Dry finish and damn delicious.
Paired this evening with some divine cheese from Boat Shed Cheese. I tried it with both the Horizon and the Chelsea Blue. Both cheeses are phenomenal (as are all their cheeses), however, this particular Sake paired exceptionally well with the Chelsea Blue – not surprisingly, as big Nama style Sake is usually a great match with blue cheese. Fresh local figs added another delicious dimension to divine this pairing.

A selection of incredible sake from Moriki Shuzo is available in Australia via Black Market Sake.

Imada Fukucho Hattanso sake with Rogue River Blue cheese

This Rogue River Blue Special Reserve takes Sake and cheese pairing to the next level.
This benchmark organic blue cheese is hand made at Rogue Creamery, Oregon, for only a few weeks each year during the autumn equinox. After inoculation with selected Roqueforti mould spores, the cheese is macerated in Clear Creek pear brandy and wrapped in shiraz vine leaves before ageing for 15 months. This cheese is moist and creamy in texture, with a strong but not overpowering flavour that finishes with a fruity aftertaste and a hint of pear brandy.
In the lead up to my next Sake and Cheese event, I thought I’d treat myself to some of this fabulous cheese and a glass or two of Imada Fukucho Junmai Ginjo Hattanso Muroka – a fabulous Sake from Hiroshima, brewed by Miho Imada , one of the handful of female Tōji making incredible Sake in Japan! The sake’s lively floral nose with mild lactic notes, and balanced palate with some sweetness, spice and a little fruitiness made for an incredible pairing with this cheese. This is a bit of a go-to sake for me, particularly when introducing new drinkers to sake…. or to the wonderful world of sake and cheese pairings!

Imada Fukucho sake is available in Australia via Supersake.

Gozenshu’s 1859 Prototype paired with Manchego cheese.

Tsuji Honten are pioneers of brewing with Omachi rice and also using the ancient Bodaimoto method.
Gozenshu 1859 ‘Prototype’ wears a lot of hashtags:
Junmai (pure rice)
Muroka (sake that has not been charcoal fined/filtered)
Nama (unpasteurised)
Genshu (undiluted with water prior to bottling)
Bodaimoto (ancient fermentation starter that pre-dates kimoto)
Nakadori (the middle fraction of the pressing)
…and as mentioned, this sake is made using Omachi rice, (one of my personal favourites), which is one of the oldest sake rice varieties and stems from Okayama prefecture, where Tsuji Honten are located.
Some have remarked on similarities between this sake and ‘Cry Baby’ from their discontinued ‘The Silence’ series ~ I find this to be far less ‘sweet’ on the palate and a little more wine like in terms of acidity and finish.
Both ‘Cry Baby’ and ‘Prototype’ were made using Omachi rice polished to 65%, and both were Junmai Muroka Nama Genshu. ‘Cry Baby’ was made using the Sokujo-moto starter method, as opposed to the Bodaimoto used for the ‘Prototype’. I think the two sake are quite different – but this is based more on memory and not from side by side comparison. Either way, I am quite the fan of Gozenshu sake and always look forward to seeing what they do next.
The beautiful lactic notes and good acidity in this sake make it very easy to pair with a variety of cheeses. I am a big fan of pairing this particular sake with Manchego. The flavours in both this sake and Manchego work together so well and create a delightful umami explosion on the palate.

Gozenshu sake is available in Australia via Supersake.

Pairing Taiheizan sake with cheese and mushroom = umami heaven

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of pairing Sake with cheese.
A recent chat with the lovely Eiko Kodama, (from Kodama Jozo – makers of Taiheizan sake), on this topic recently prompted me to post a couple of my favourites.
Two of my absolute favourite cheeses to pair with a huge range of Sake are Comté (a French {hard} cheese made from unpasteurised cow’s milk) and the incredibly indulgent Brillat-Savarin (a French soft-ripened triple cream cow’s milk cheese)… of course there are many others on the list but I find these two incredibly versatile when pairing with Sake.
Both pair quite beautifully with Taiheizan Sake. A favourite would have to be the Comté with the Taiheizan Kimoto Junmai (at room temperature). I highly recommend this combination. If Comté is not available, then I would recommend a nice (possibly aged) cheddar. If you happen to also have some mushrooms handy, then I highly recommend warming the Kimoto Junmai and pairing it with mushroom pizza, cheese & mushroom toast or simply just melting cheese over the mushrooms. It’s UMAMI heaven!

Nomitarite Aji wo Shiru Junmai sake with Kyoto-style tsukemono

Sake and tsukemono (Japanese pickles) are a perfect combo. I particularly love this pairing in the Summer time. This here photo and pairing was from an Izakaya in Kyoto. Tsukemono is certainly a bit of a go-to sake pairing for me, particularly when in Japan.

Tamagawa sake from Kyoto Prefecture, with semi-hard goats cheese

The delicious combination of Sake and cheese. Great way to end a long day.
Super rich and robust Tamagawa Junmai Yamahai Muroka Nama Genshu ~ packs a punch at 20.6%.
Made using natural ambient yeasts that thrive within the brewery, and bottled without filtration, dilution or other interventions. Rice: Kitanishiki – polished to 66%.
Nose displays malt, rice, toasted grain and roasted nuts with some mild lactic notes. Palate is rich and savoury – mushroom, aged cheese, roasted nuts, malt and hints of spice. Bloody delicious! ~ Paired with Main Ridge Dairy’s Capony, an aged washed curd goat cheese.

Tamagawa sake is available in Australia via Sakenet.

Fukucho Hattanso from Imada Shuzo in Hiroshima, paired with Merricks Mist cheese

This was another trial tasting for a Sake and Cheese tasting event. A delicious Junmai Ginjo from Imada Shuzo, paired with Merricks Mist Cow’s Milk Camembert from Red Hill Cheese.
• Imada Fukucho Junmai Ginjo Hattanso Muroka from Imada Brewery in Hiroshima.
Made with Hattanso rice, polished to 55%.
A very funky and unique Sake from one of Japan’s handful of female Toji (head brewer), using the ancient, rare, indigenous and once almost extinct, Hattanso rice. ( Miho Imada all but brought this rice back from the dead and with time, love and dedication, has managed to produce some kick-ass Sakes made from this ancient strain of rice.) A lively floral nose with some nuttiness and mild lactic notes. A complex, yet well- balanced palate with some sweetness and a little spice. Palate displays hints of pineapple, walnut and honeycomb with a lovely, lingering finish ~ leaving you wanting more. Best served chilled. A lovely match with soft cheeses.
Here it is paired with:
•Red Hill Cheese – Merricks Mist – Cow’s Camembert. A lovely soft, creamy, white mould cheese that works well with the floral and fruity notes of this Imada Junmai Ginjo.

Imada Fukucho sake is available in Australia via Supersake.

Miyoshikiku Shuzo’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ sake with homemade pizza

Taking a ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ with Miyoshikiku.
Trying this fruity, funky Sake with some homemade pizza. The pumpkin and gorgonzola pizza worked really well with this Sake.
Miyoshikiku make some really unique and interesting Sake. This one I had not tried before now. Initial green apple tartness/sourness on the palate, followed by sweeter, richer fruity notes and hints of honeycomb with that Miyoshikiku wild funkiness. Finishing with a more rice driven savouriness. The sweet notes harmonised well with the pumpkin and complimented the blue cheese nicely.
This Sake also paired really well with mushroom pizza.

Hourai Irootoko from Watanabe Shuzo in Gifu, with Red Hill Cheese Granny’s Blue

Hourai Irootoko Junmai Daiginjo.
From Watanabe Brewery in Hida, Gifu, Japan. Hourai Irootoko Junmai Daiginjo
Made from Yamada-Nishiki rice, polished to 45%
ALC/VOL: 15.5%
A beautiful fruity nose. Lovely pear aroma with soft hints of grapefruit and fresh almond. Bright yet delicate and clean palate with creamy pear and tropical undertones. Full bodied and well balanced with soft acid and dry finish. Best served chilled, however, room temperature is ok. A great match with salty or strong cheeses. In this case, paired with Granny’s Blue from Red Hill Cheese on the Mornington Peninsula. This is a clean, rich and buttery blue mound cheese made from 100% organic cows milk, (using vegetarian rennet).
The creamy pear notes in this sake balance well with this buttery blue, each complimenting the other nicely. 

Sake from Watanabe Shuzo is available in Australia via Supersake.

Ine Mankai from Mukai Shuzo, Kyoto ~ with pizza

Mukai Shuzo, founded in 1754 and still running as a family business today, is located in Northern Kyoto. The current Tōji (Master Brewer) is Kuniko Mukai, who was one of the first women to become a Master Brewer (Tōji) in Japan. Thanks to her continued experimenting, using unusual rice and yeast combinations, Kuniko has produced some very unique types of Sake.

Unique is a great way to describe this particular Sake. Ine Mankai (English name: Ine’s Full Bloom) Junmai Genshu neither looks nor tastes like a typical Sake. Made with an ancient strain of red rice (Murasaki Komachi), along with a white rice (Gohyakumangoku), this Sake could easily be mistaken for a richly hued Rosé if one was presented with a glass with no idea of what they’d been given. However, the colour, I feel, is the only similarity. For me, the nose is nothing like that of the aforementioned wine. Pomegranate, currant and an olive brine-like savouriness on the nose. A sweet and rich palate, balanced by high acidity with red currant, pomegranate and hints of tart cherry, even somewhat Sherry like to a degree, but more balanced (for me). I have had this Sake on several occasions, always chilled and always with food. I think it pairs well with many types of food but I have to say, drinking it alongside this homemade pizza was absolutely delightful. A perfect match. It’s an incredibly unique Sake and a fun one for Sake tasting nights or pairing dinners as it certainly gets people talking. It’s also a great one for those wine lovers who are dubious about Sake and are adamant that you won’t find a Sake they will like. This one will push boundaries and get people talking. It always amazes me how the colour invites more enthusiasm in Wine drinkers than say a Ginjo style Sake. This Sake would also be a great and interesting contribution to a ‘blind tasting’ event with friends or colleagues.
Alc/vol: 14.1%

Mukai Shuzo’s Ine Mankai is available in Australia via Black Market Sake.

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