Review: Niizawa Sake Discovery Evening at Sakagura London
Sakagura Discovery - Tohoku Earthquake & Tsunami Anniversary Sake Talk with Niizawa Brewery: Words by Baldwin Ho.
We were extremely excited to attend an expert sake seminar with the Vice-President of Niizawa Brewery at one of our favourite Japanese restaurants, Sakagura last weekend. Niizawa Brewery is one of the oldest sake breweries in the world, established in 1873 and is now run by a 5th generation brewer.
The evening wasn't just about hearing of their prestigious past, but also the story of trauma and survival as their original brewery in Miyagi was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. We watched an extremely touching video of the very moment the earthquake hit the Niizawa brewery and their subsequent efforts to rebuild it on a safer site on higher ground. For each booking that evening, Sakagura made a charitable donation to the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami relief organisation.
It was a fascinating insight to hear from Vice President Kentaro Sugihara that at the peak of the industry, there were tens of thousands of breweries but nowadays there are only around 1,500 in Japan. Niizawa had also been suffering a downturn until the current president took over and focused on improving the quality of the sake. Kentaro helpfully explained that 80% of the quality of the sake is dependent on the brewery, unlike wines which are 80% dependent on the quality of the grapes.
The brand we sampled 'Hakurakusei' is now not only offered in Japanese airline business lounges but also served for first-class passengers. We tried their various best-sellers such as junmai ginjo and special junmai matched with exquisite food such as fresh oyster sakagura style and wagyu tataki. The dry nature of this sake is perfect for matching with seafood dishes due to their subtle and delicate notes.
For those who do not typically order desserts (or matching sake) Sakagura is one restaurant where you have to make an exception. Their rich matcha chocolate gateau was paired with an elegant and palate-cleansing earl grey tea sake liqueur.