Congratulations to Niigata for having their GI approved! In light of the great news, we want to share a lil bit on what GI represents in sake’s context and what this means for Niigata sake. If you already heard of the news, jump straight in here and get 7% off all our Niigata sakes: https://theartofsake.com/collections/niigata-sake
A geographical indication (GI) refers to an identifier for a product as originating from a particular territory which has given the product its special quality or reputation. A great example is Champagne – only sparkling wine that are produced in the Champagne wine region of France (plus a few more regulations) can bear the Champagne name.
Japan currently has 11 different GIs for Sake. This does not include the GI for Japanese Sake itself, which must be made in Japan with Japanese ingredients. The other GIs include GI Hakusan, GI Yamagata, GI Nadagogo, GI Harima and GI Mie.
Here are the regulations for a sake to meet the Niigata GI requirement.
1. Rice & Koji made in Japan
2. Niigata water
3. Meet the Japanese Sake GI standard
4. Brewed, Stored, bottled in Niigata
What’s a Niigata sake
A little about Niigata and the wonderful sake that comes from the prefecture.
Niigata is the prefecture with the highest number of sake breweries in Japan - 90 out of 1,400 breweries in the country are found in the prefecture, which includes famous sake brand Kubota and our very own Imayotsukasa. Known as the Burgundy of Japan, and their motto for sake brewing is "Tanrei Karakuchi" meaning light, clean and dry style. However, much to our surprise, the prefecture has opted for “light and tasteful” for its official GI core characteristics, instead of “light and dry”.
Based on total production, Niigata makes the 3rd most volume of sake, just behind Hyogo and Kyoto. However, based on the total production of premium sake (Honjozo, Junmai grade and above), they are the top producers in the world.
So what makes Niigata sakes so outstanding? Why does the sake from Niigata Prefecture have the characteristic of Tanrei and dry? It turns out that it has a lot to do with the terroir of Niigata Prefecture.
The snow on the mountains of Niigata Prefecture melts and turns into groundwater. After flowing through the mountains, soft water containing a lot of minerals is formed. By using this kind of water as the main ingredient, the sake brewed is dry and refreshing. The sake rice produced in Niigata Prefecture is also grown from this kind of water that contains a lot of minerals, so the produced rice has a light, dry, and fruity smell.
The cold weather in Niigata is also one of the main reasons. The cold environment is optimal for slow fermentation and can prevent bacteria growing during the production, resulting in a sake that’s dry and clean.
What the GI approval means for Niigata sake
The GI approval means Niigata sake is being recognised by the world, and consumers will can be assured of a certain quality when drinking sakes from the prefecture.
Food pairings for Niigata sake
We know sake isn’t picky about food, but it does have its favourites. For light and dry sakes from Niigata, sushi, sashimi, and other light food are perfect pairings.
For a sushi course with its successive series of single bites, the ideal would be to drink a dry and crisp sake to push the reset button on your palate between each morsel. This would be especially true for dishes that are rich in fat and fried food like karaage chicken – the dryness in a Tanrei sake is the best companion for washing away the oily feeling in the mouth.
The Niigata breweries we represent
Inter Rice Asia is proud to represent 7 of the 90 breweries from Niigata. The prefecture holds a special place in our hearts, having started the company with a pure-Niigata portfolio back in 2008.
The Niigata breweries that we represent are as follow:
- Ayu Masamune
- Four Fox Sake (Naeba Shuzo)
And in celebration of Niigata’s GI approval, all the Niigata sakes on theartsake.com will be on 7% off from now to 25 February! Share this news with other sake drinkers out there and let’s celebrate this achievement together.