Focus brewery : Hatsumomidi, Yamaguchi
We wanted to talk to you about the Hatsumomidi brewery. Firstly, and this goes without saying, because their sakes are excellent and new to us, but also because its history is fairly representative of what has happened in many sakaguras. In serious decline in the 70s, this small brewery in Yamaguchi prefecture has been able to recover since 2003 thanks to the hard work of Yasuhiro Harada, the 12th generation of owners.
After so much effort, the small team at Hatsumomidi is now seeing its work recognised nationally. It has won regular awards since 2008 and is building a strong international reputation. We're delighted to present this nugget with a 15% launch discount code!
THE HATSUMOMIDI BREWERY
The Hatsumomidi brewery* is located in the town of Shunan, on the Seto Sea in the extreme south of Yamaguchi and Honshu. It was founded by the Harada family in 1819, during the Edo period. For many decades, its activity was mainly limited to a local scale, but from the 1970s onwards, it went through a difficult period, marked by a complete halt to its production. To maintain its survival, it was forced to market sake made by other breweries.
In 2003, Yasuhiro Harada, representative of the 12th generation and above all a young toji, decided to take things in hand and completely transform the methods and objectives. His idea was to produce small quantities on a permanent basis, in order to offer the freshest sake all year round. Calling themselves the "brewery of the four seasons", their volumes are very small, in the region of 300 to 340 gokus* a year, or 54 to 62,000 litres, and their ultra-well-brewed sakes are a real discovery.(*As a reminder, goku is the unit of measurement for sake in brewing. It is equivalent to 180 litres).
As far as the ingredients are concerned, a careful selection of the water and rice strains used has enabled us to make huge progress. The water comes from the Kano spring, which is the source of the Nishiki river, a little further north in the mountains. It is light, has low mineral content and is one of the 100 best waters in Japan, a criterion that all brewers like to emphasise.
For rice, only the locally-grown Yamada Nishiki and Saito no Shizuku strains are used in sake production. Saito-no-Shizuku rice, which you may be hearing about for the first time, is endemic to Yamaguchi prefecture. It is produced by crossing Kokuryo Miyako rice and Saikai 222 (itself from Yamada Nishiki). This rice is especially renowned for bringing a sensation of smoothness and roundness to sake, and is now widely recognised as the symbol of Yamaguchi prefecture.
(*For the Japanese, it's Hatsumomidi and not Hatsumomiji. The brewers chose this ancient term to describe the change in colour of the leaves in autumn, from yellow to red).
THE SAKES OF THE HARADA SERIES
The series we have selected is simply called 'Harada', the name of the owner family. It includes a Junmai Ginjo and two Muroka (a Ginjo and a Daïginjo). As a reminder, muroka are sake that have not been decoloured on a bed of activated charcoal.
De gauche à droite Harada Gengetsu Muroka Junmai Ginjo, Harada Gengetsu Muroka Junmai Ginjo, Harada Seiryu Junmai Ginjo.
OUR DETAILED TASTING NOTES
Harada Gengetsu Muroka Junmai Daïginjo Genshu : Gengetsu means 'crescent moon'. This is an elegant Daiginjo with beautiful pale yellow highlights (it's a muroka). The nose is delicate, light and fresh. Supple and fluid on the palate, this is a straightforward, elegant sake with well-controlled fruit aromas of muscat, white peach and strawberry. The finish is clean and limpid. A superb sake to be enjoyed chilled with the finest dishes, fish and shellfish.
Harada Gengetsu Muroka Junmai Ginjo Genshu : A Ginjo with lots of character. Its colour has superb golden highlights. The nose is pronounced, with hints of rice powder, citrus zest and ripe fruit. Rich and unctuous on the palate. The attack is as powerful as it is complex, with aromas of ripe fruit, dried fruit and apricot. The finish is long and pleasant. Serve with Peking duck, game, Nitsuke fish or marbled meats. Serve at room temperature or barely chilled.
Harada Seiryu Junmai Ginjo : Seiryu means "clear river". A delicate, elegant Ginjo with floral notes and fruity aromas of pear and white melon. The attack on the palate is as supple as it is fluid. A pleasant evolution from rather round, fruity aromas to more character and liveliness. It becomes warm towards the end, with the appearance of a pleasant bitterness and spices that are very timely. The finish is clear and clean. Pairings are easy with such a lovely sake, and it's perfect with sashimi, sole meunière, cheese or as an aperitif. Serve chilled !