When the Japanese think of Niigata, they think of rice, sake, and snow. The clean plentiful water is one key to the purity and flavor of its sake.
Niigata City, the capital of Niigata Prefecture and the largest city on the Japan Sea coast. It is located 200 miles north of Tokyo, two hours by bullet train, or four hours by car. Shinona River, is the longest river in Japan, runs through Niigata Prefecture. The river supplies an abundance of water to rice fields in the region. The long winters and bountiful snowfalls, contribute even more to the water tables.
One of the largest producers of rice in Japan. It also well known for its production of Koshi Hikari, the most popular variety of table rice. This premium reputation garners top selling prices. “Koshi Hikari”, means Niigata shining, the rice has a pure, beautiful, white color that shines in the light.As a major rice producer, Niigata is a self-sufficient prefecture. In other words, Niigata grown sake rice is consumed within the prefecture and only a small amount is traded out of Niigata. Niigata breweries are able to source rice that is locally grown within the Niigata region. The Niigata Prefectural Agriculture Experiment Station developed two innovative sake-brewing rices; Gohyakumangoku and Koshi Tanrei.
GOHYAKUMANGOKU Created at the Niigata Agricultural Experiment Station by crossing Kikusui with Shin No. 200. Further research was not carried out until after the war and it wasn't until 1957 it was officially named Gokyakumangoku. The name commemorates a bumper crop year when volume rice production exceeded 5-million koku (gohyakuman = 5 million and goku is an old unit of measurement). In 1973 it was designated as a premium variety and encouraged to be grown and used in brewing. Rice characteristics: -early growing, - suited for colder climates, - large grains with shinpaku - ideal for steaming (doesn't get sticky and is hard on the outside, soft on inside) - easy koji preparing - harder than average grains and thus adequate dissolves in the moromi...
...It yields a sake with a light, clean and smooth character and a mellow taste which is otherwise known as Tanrei Karakuchi! NIigata accounts for nearly 50% of all Gohyakumangoku grown in Japan. As a major rice producer, Niigata is a self-sufficient prefecture. In other words, Niigata grown sake rice is consumed within the prefecture and only a small amount is traded out of Niigata. Niigata breweries are able to source rice that is locally grown within the Niigata region. The Niigata Prefectural Agriculture Experiment Station developed two innovative sake-brewing rices; Gohyakumangoku and Koshi Tanrei.
Koshi Tanrei A relatively newer strain of sake brewing rice created by joint efforts of the Niigata Agricultural Research Center (formerly the Niigata Agricultural Experiment Station) and Niigata Prefectural Research Institute and Niigata Sake Brewers Association. First crossed in 1989 by crossing the number one most widely used sake brewing rice Yamada Nishiki with the second most used and locally developed sake brewing rice Gohyakumangoku. Fifteen years later (2004) Koshi Tanrei was named by the Niigata governor at the time, Ikuo Hirayama san. This varietal was specifically created to meet demands for a new, local variety that could be used for daiginjo brewing.
Rice Characteristics: - late growing rice - large grains - low protein content - tolerant to daiginjo seimaibuai levels of 40% or lower - high water absorption - good dissolving in mormoi. It yields sake that has attributes from both of its parents: clean aftertaste due to less protein content and from parent Gohyakumangoku and a rich, full body texture and pronounced ginjo-ka from parent Yamada Nishiki. other rice used in Niigata....Tankane Nishiki, Ippon Jime, Hokukiru #12, etc...Takane Nishiki - The 4th largest sake brewing rice variety grown in Niigata. It is a little smaller in grain size than other varieties with an unstable shinpaku but is considered good for yielding rich tasting sake. Ippon Jime - (varietal of choice grown by Onda Brewery) It is a cross between Houhai and Gohyakumangoku in the early 90's.
Considered a very difficult varietal to grow because it develops very early in spring and seedlings fall prey to preditors. It is hard to brew with because it absorbs water very quickly and thus brewers using this varietal must meticulously and laboriously brew each and every step by hand to ensure quality outcome. Ippon Jime yields sake that is unique with distinct umami, a relatively light body and a clean, clear finish.Hokuriku No.12 -(actively used by Midorikawa) An heirloom strain originating in Niigata prefecture. It is ancestor to other well-known sake brewing varieties such as Takane NIshiki and Miyama Nishiki. RIce Characteristics: - large grain, - well formed shinpaku - difficult to grow
Niigata Prefecture is the only region to have an independent governing body, Niigata Prefectural Sake Research Institute (www.niigata-sake.or.jp). Established in 1930 for research and development it also is devoted to enhancing the quality and variety of Niigata Sake.In 1984 the Niigata Sake Academy was established as a vocational school and was the very first sake brewing training facility in Japan. Admission to the three-year academy is limited to 20 applicants per year and is extremely selective. The region also has a celebrity status for its fine local seafood cuisine.
Capital; Niigata City
Population; 2.4 million - Larger than New Mexico (2.0 mil.). Smaller than Nevada (2.6 mil.)
Area; 12,584 km2 or 4,859 sq. miles- Larger than Delaware (2,489 sq mi). Smaller than Connecticut (5,543).
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. - Art of Sake, Feb.22,22
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 NiigataWhat the GI approval means for Niigata sake. The GI approval means Niigata sake is being recognized by the world, and consumers will can be assured of a certain quality when drinking sakes from the prefecture.