Sparkling Sake is relatively new style of Sake and is one of the fastest growing categories of sakes on the market. Until recently it was fairly unknown outside of Japan but there are now quite a few different brands of sparkling sake available on the UK market. Sparkling Sake is made is made using a very similar method to the traditional method of sparkling wine production i.e. a secondary fermentation in the bottle. It is made in the same way as normal Sake, but then the Sake and Koji fungus (not technically a yeast, but it performs the same function) are allowed to undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle which produces carbon dioxide and therefore a sparkling Sake. Unlike traditional method sparkling wines, it is not disgorged, so a small amount of fine sediment remains in the bottle.
At Fareham Wine Cellar we stock Ninki-Ichi Junmai Ginjo Happo-Sheishu Sparkling Sake from the Ninki-Ichi Brewery located in Nihonmatsu City in the Fukushima prefecture of Japan. The brewery is surrounded by the Abukuma mountain ranges to the east and Adatara Mountain ranges to the west so run-off snow melt gives Ninki-Ichi a natural water source, with a good balance of minerals, which is essential for producing high-grade Sake. Ninki-Ichi Junmai Ginjo Happo-Sheishu is a clean, light, easy to drink Sake in an off-dry and refreshing style. Absolutely no additives are used, and it has a truly natural sweetness and acidity.
Sparkling Sake will have a small amount of the fine sediment, the remains of the koji mould used to ferment the sake, in the bottom of the bottle. A recent question from a customer about how to serve sparkling Sake set me thinking. I had only ever had it served cloudy before. So I asked my suppliers to find out for me, and the answer from Mr. Yonezawa at the Ninki-Ichi brewery came back that it can be served either cloudy or clear depending on one’s personal preference. It seems that it is more likely to be drunken cloudy in Japan, whilst Europeans, who are mainly brought up on clear wine, often serve it clear. Either way it needs to be served chilled. If you want to serve it cloudy, that is pretty easy – open the bottle slightly, gently let the gas out, close the bottle again and just turn the bottle upside down a couple of times to distribute the sediment before you gently open the bottle. If you want to serve it clear then leave the bottle upright in the fridge for a couple of days, gently open the bottle just enough to let the gas out gently, then open it fully and very gently pour the sparkling sake, in one go if possible, keeping the settled sediment at the bottom of the bottle. As you can see in the photograph below, it is a only a very fine sediment and does not detract from the enjoyment of the sake at all.
Sparkling sake is quite low in alcohol at between 5 and 8% abv. and is a great refreshing alternative to sparkling wine. It can be served as an aperitif but it is also a very versatile partner to all sorts of foods. It doesn’t go particularly well with spicy, rich dishes (it will be easily over-powered), but is great with mushroom dishes, fish (sushi perhaps!) and various cheeses.