While the first snow has yet to hit the ground here in Tokyo and temperatures have yet to really bite, winter is still winter, and one of the best seasons to enjoy sake.
One word that will make a frequent appearance in izakayas and sake shops in winter is shiboritate. But what exactly is shiboritate and why is it so special?
What Does Shiboritate Mean?
A few of the terms that appear together with the brand name on the sake label describe at which stage of the production process the sake was bottled.
Without being able to read Japanese, you would stand little of chance of working out the stage that shiboritate refers to, so here’s a little hint: shiboritate means freshly pressed. Okay then, at what stage was the sake bottled?
The Clue’s in the Name
Traditionally most breweries brew their sake in the heart of the winter. A type of brewing referred to as Kanzukuri. In the second half of the process, the completed sake, a thick, gloopy alcoholic porridge called moromi is split into solids (lees) and liquid. This stage goes by various different names: shibori, agefune, joso, funagake, etc, but In English we called it pressing or filtering — filtering is probably the most accurate because the solids are being filtered out of the liquid. So to answer the question in the last paragraph, yes you guessed it, shiboritate is sake that has been bottled right after it has undergone this pressing/filtering stage.
What’s So Special About Shiboritate
Generally, standard, non-seasonal sake is pasteurized (just like milk), just prior to shipping, to kill all the remaining microbes and bacteria which stabilizing the flavour and stopping the fermentation. Shiboritate on the other hand, completely bypasses this pasteurization, locking the flavours and aromas in a more youthful, refreshing state. Some shiboritate is even a bit fizzy because Co2 has dissolved into the liquid instead of completely dissipating.
Unpasteurized sake is called namazake in Japanese. Shiboritate is just one of the many versions of namazake that exist. But shiboritate is not just any namazake. It’s sake in its ultimate nouveau state shipped straight from the brewery almost immediately after pressing. It’s normally delivered around November through to March.
The exact definition is not legally defined, so some breweries may label it slightly differently.
The Ultimate Winter Sake Indulgence
So, the question is what it is about the flavour of shiboritate that makes it so worth dedicating an entire article to.
Crispness and Freshness
The fresh taste of shiboritate is the perfect way to kick-start a body drained by having the heater on full all day.
The Sweetness and umami of the Rice
Depending on the rice polishing ratio (how much of the rice remains after polishing) or variety of rice there are two distinct styles of shiboritate. There is a fruity type there is a more rice flavour laden type. The latter being the sort of flavour that conjures authentic images of life in the brewery in winter surrounded by the fresh aromas of rice.
Here at KURAND, if you ask us to sum up shiboritate, we think it’s the sake that best conveys the passion of the brewery; allowing you to experience the original flavour of the rice while gaining a feel for the production process itself.
There is nothing better than shiboritate to start off a new year. A whole range of diverse flavours and styles of shiboritate is waiting for you to try here at KURAND.