Yesterday, I wrote about my visit to Chef Ming Tsai's restaurant Blue Ginger to attend a preview event showcasing the new Simply Ming "On the Road: Japan" series. The event, An Evening Celebrating the Food and Culture of Japan, was hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF). Seven courses of food were served during the course of the evening, and Lloyd Foster of Classic Wine Imports was present, pouring a number of Sakes for the guests.
As Evoluzione is a new brand, and the Banzai website is not yet operational, there is little detailed information to be found on it. They produce at least four different types: Junmai, Junmai Ginjo, Junmai Daiginjo and Junmai Nigori. Three of those four types are produced by the Ume No Yado brewery in Nara Prefecture while the other was produced by the Matsuyama brewery in Yamagata Prefecture. Ume No Yado also produced the Bunny Sparkling Sakes, Ume Shu and Yuzu Shu we got to taste.
The Ume No Yado brewery was founded in 1893 and is located at the foot of Mount Katsuragi in Nara, often said to be the birthplace of Sake. The phrase "ume no yado" means "plum house" and refers to an ancient plum tree located on the grounds of the brewery which has been there for as long as anyone can remember. Their motto is “small volume, yet high quality” and though they tend to use many traditional brewing practices, their marketing seems more modern and innovative. Since 2002, they have been exporting their Sake, and seem to be trying to market to a U.S. audience, making their Sake labels more approachable, as well as embracing the idea of Sake cocktails. As the U.S. Sake market continues to grow, it would benefit many Sake breweries if they marketed more to the U.S.
The Evoluzione Junmai ($15-$20) is produced by Ume No Yado and has an alcohol content of 15%. It can be served either gently warmed or slightly chilled. This Sake seemed to have a taste of steamed rice and bitter herbs, and I wasn't a big fan of the taste. The Evoluzione Junmai Ginjo ($15-$20) was much more my preference. It was produced by the Matsuyama Shuzo, has an alcohol content of 14%, and is best served slightly chilled. It had a smooth and pleasing taste, with delicious flavors of pear and melon. Easy drinking, but with plenty of flavor. The Evoluzione Junmai Daiginjo ($50-$60) is produced by Ume No Yado and has an alcohol content of 15%. It is an elegant Sake, with a nice melange of subtle fruit and herbal notes. It has the lightest body of the three, but also the most complexity. An impressive Sake. Finally, the Evoluzione Junmai Nigori is produced by Ume No Yado and has an alcohol content of 14%. More full bodied, it only possesses a mild sweetness and delicious tropical fruit flavors, including prominent coconut. I am not a fan of overly sweet Nigori, so this was a pleasure to drink.
Tyku Sakes: their Black, a Junmai Ginjo, and White, a Junmai Daiginjo. The Black is produced by Ume No Yado and the White is made by the Matsuyama Shuzo.