The Winchester Cocoa Company makes fine handmade chocolates in Winchester, Hampshire with some ingredients bought from Fareham Wine Cellar (Goyard Vieux Marc de Champagne and Pussers Blue Label Rum 40%). This is a new company formed by Chris Attewell and where possible he tries to use local ingredients – fresh cream from a herd of Guernsey cows near Winchester, Summerdown Hampshire mint oil, teas from Char Teas in Winchester. He has also recently made a chocolate flavoured with Twisted Nose Gin distilled in Winchester.
For more information about the Winchester Cocoa Company and matching wine and chocolate please follow my earlier blog post. There you will find lots of ideas for matching wines, particularly with Ports, dessert and fortified wines – these seem to make the best matches.
For Christmas 2014, chocolatier Chris has created a gift box containing 12 Christmas truffles, 2 chocolates of each of the following flavours,
Silver Foil – Marc de Champagne. Milk chocolate ganache flavoured with Goyard Vieux Marc de Champagne
Lilac Foil – Christmas pudding. Pusser’s rum ganache with christmas spices, citrus zest and sherry soaked raisins
Orange Foil – Grand Marnier and cinnamon. A Grand Marnier ganache centre, dusted with cinnamon sugar
Brown / Copper Stripes – Hazelnut and nutmeg. Piedmont hazelnut liqueur ganache, spiced with nutmeg and coated with caramelised hazelnut pieces
Red with Gold Stars – Whisky and orange. Tomintoul 14yr single malt ganache with crystallised orange pieces
Ruby Red – Sea salt caramel. Liquid caramel truffles made with Cornish sea salt and Madagascan vanilla
All of the Winchester Cocoa Company chocolates are made in small quantities.
Available whilst stocks last in the the run up to Christmas 2014. Available online.
All free of charge, all at our shop. We will be running half an hour times slots for the second and third wine tastings, so everyone doesn’t turn up at once. As you know, we are a bit short for space! More information on this and the wines we will be showing very shortly. The Champagne Forget Brimont tasting is a matter of just turning up between 1pm and 5pm.
Please turn up anytime between 1pm and 5pm for this tasting. We will be showing the full range of Champagne Forget Brimont wines including Brut, Rosé, Blanc de Blancs and Vintage Champagnes. You may be aware of Champagne Forget Brimont, they are a small, family owned Champagne producer who we have been buying from for over 20 years.
Richard Oldman works for Louis Latour Agencies who represent, not just the famous Burgundian wine producer Louis Latour but also other wineries such as Wakefield Estate from Australia and Craggy Range from New Zealand. Richard will be showing a selection of wines for festive drinking focusing on Louis Latour and Wakefield Estate wines, including Wakefield Estate Shiraz 2013.
This tasting will have 30 minute time slots so we can fit the most amount of people into our tiny shop and show the wines in (relative) comfort. Please email or telephone 01329 822733 to book a time slot.
1.00pm until 1.30pm
1.30pm until 2.00pm
2.00pm until 2.30pm
2.30pm until 3.00pm
3.00pm until 3.30pm
3.30pm until 4.00pm
4.00pm until 4.30pm
4.30pm until 5.00pm
Christmas Wine Tasting with James Wilson of Hatch Mansfield
This tasting will have 30 minute time slots so we can fit the most amount of people into our tiny shop and show the wines in (relative) comfort. Please email or telephone 01329 822733 to book a time slot.
5.30pm until 6.00pm
6.00pm until 6.30pm
6.30pm until 7.00pm
7.30pm until 7.30pm
Any questions about Christmas Wine Tasting, please phone or email. We hope to see you there!
Whisky is the 2nd fastest growing spirits category globally (after Cognac) It is reckoned to be growing at 12% per year, so it is not surprising that there are lots of new whiskies and bottlings creeping out of the the woodwork. It also seems that the whisky-buying public are open to trying new and different brands or recognised brands perhaps with a different wood finish. For example, Compass Box Whisky has had enormous success with their premium blended malt whiskies and Glenmorangie’s limited edition whiskies have been finished in all sort of casks recently. Which is where Nomad Outland Whisky comes in.
What is Nomad Outland Whisky?
Potentially, this could be a whole new category of whisky. Basically it is a blend Scotch whisky (grain and malt) aged for most of its life in Scotland, shipped to Jerez (the Sherry capital) in Spain and finished in ex Pedro Ximenez dessert Sherry casks. This is not unusual, of course, most whisky is aged in old Sherry casks, and producers have aged Whisky in old PX cask – the difference here is that is aged in two different countries. This is also why is can’t be called Scotch Whisky and I think the term Outland Whisky is as good as any.
Nomad Outland Whisky is a joint venture between The Dalmore and González Byass, who own Dalmore, so perhaps this idea is not so strange as it might seem. It is a a collaboration between master distiller at Dalmore, Richard Paterson, and the master blender at Gonzales Byass, Antonio Flores. The initial Scotch whisky is a blend of over 30 single malt and grain whiskies, selected by Paterson, aged from between 5 and 8 years and principally from Speyside. The blend is aged for 3 years in Sherry butts in Scotland before it is shipped to Gonzalez Byass’ cellars in Jerez where it is finised in Pedro Ximenez (PX) sherry casks for a further year. The cellars’ location next to the sea, native yeasts in the cellars and the temperature and humidity combined with the old PX Sherry casks all influence the character of the whisky.
Nomad Outland Whisky Tasting Notes
Nomad Whisky has a Dark amber / gold colour. The nose is very aromatice. There are aromas of orange / citrus notes, raisin, honey, vanilla, oak with malty, funky, tangy sherry notes. The palate is full, round, rich and complex. Sweet mid-palate, lots of raisin flavours and spicy oak with a good dollop of sherry character. The finish is long and sweet but drying out at the end.
So there you have it. A unique category of whisky. If you like sweet, sherried whisky, then this is one for you to try.
Pussers Rum Blue Label has been relaunched in the UK bottled at 40% abv rather than the old 54.5%. Do not worry however, the Pussers Rum bottled at 54.5% will not disappear from the UK markets, so there is succour for all those old sailors out there. It is being rebranded as Pussers Rum Gunpowder Proof and will have a black and gold, instead of a blue label. You can read more about the reasons for this change and the more about Gunpowder Proof at my earlier blog post. This is part of a slight modernisation by Pussers which also saw the lauch of Pussers Spiced Rum in autumn 2014.
I have not tried the 54.5% bottling for quite some time but the good news the sample of the 40% bottling that I tried smells, and tastes, remarkably like the old 54.5% bottling. All that is missing is the slightly fiery kick at the end of the palate and a little bit of viscous texture in the mouth.
Pussers Rum Blue Label 40% Tasting Notes by FWC
Pussers Rum Blue Label has a good burnished golden colour. It has a classic Pussers demerara nose with a good amount of brown sugar and molasses aromas. There are also smokey, leathery notes complimented by baking spices (cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg etc.) and caramel and toffee aromas. The palate is full and rich. It is initially sweet on entry but dries out with time. There are rich, buttery, creamy and toffee flavours. There are some woody / rancio notes, spicy cinnamon, raisins and something somewhat reminiscent of Cognac (the rancio-type notes). It has a good long and lingering finish but without so much of the alcohol burn one gets from the 54.5% bottling.
So then, a welcome addition to the Pussers range and hopefully one that will bring Pussers to a much wider audience. The 40% bottling means that (due to the massive difference in duty between 40 and 54.5%) it will be on sale for a little over £20 a bottle, a good £12 to £15 a bottle cheaper than the 54.5% bottling’s retail price. This makes it much more attractive to the on-trade and cocktail bars where price has previously been prohibitive. It is also at a retail price that fits along side other golden and dark rums. I predict an increase in sales!
A new name and packaging for Pussers Blue Label Rum! Pussers Gunpowder Proof Rum will be launched in the UK in early 2015. As I write this both Blue Labels are available, so be careful which one you are buying!
It may come as a surprise to some, but did you know that there are various different Pussers Rums bottled at different strengths? In the UK we have basically had a choice of 2 Pussers Rums – Pussers 15 Year Old Rum with a red label, bottled at 40% abv, and the Pussers Blue Label Rum which has always been bottled at 54.5% abv. The only other market in the world to take the 54.5% rum was Germany which I suspect is a hangover from the many Army bases and forces personnel we once had there.
In the meantime the rest of the world was drinking Pussers Blue Label Rum bottled at 40% or 42% abv (80 or 84 proof). Pussers Rum are undergoing a period of modernisation and change which means a certain consolidation, rationalisation and the release of a new product, Pussers Spiced Rum.
Pussers Blue Label (International) – 40% abv
Pussers Blue Label (North America) – 42% abv
Pussers Black Label Gunpowder Proof – 54.5% abv
Pussers Green Label “Overproof” – 75% abv Pussers Spiced Rum – 35% abv
Therefore, the Pussers Blue Label Rum for the UK market will now be bottled at 40% and the old Blue Label 54.5% (it’s not disappearing, don’t fret) has been relabelled and rebranded as Pussers Gunpowder Proof Rum and will have a smart black and gold label, the abv remains at 54.5%.
Why are they doing this? I would think the release of the Spiced Rum and the new bottling of Pussers Blue Label at 40% are an attempt to connect with the younger generation of rum drinkers. It is certainly true (although we very near Portsmouth and Gosport) that currently the majority of Pussers Rum that we sell at Fareham Wine Cellar is bought by, or bought as a gift for, old sailors that most likely used to draw the Rum Tot in the Royal Navy. Obviously this generation of rum drinkers won’t be around forever and it is essential to get the younger generation of rum drinkers interested in Pussers. There are a couple of other very good reasons for reducing the alcoholic strength by volume down to 40%. Firstly, the lowered abv will allow Pussers to regain distribution on Naval bases where the maximum strength allowed is 40% abv – this will clearly open up what is a natural market for the rum. Secondly, due to the fact that duty is such a killer on spirits in the UK, the lowered abv will mean that the Blue Label will be able to be sold at around £22 a bottle rather than its current £32.50 (Fareham Wine Cellar price, correct 23/09/14). I can imagine this will make it a much more attactive price to both retails consumers and also to bars or cocktails bars who were previously put of by the relatively high price tag. Having not yet tried the new Blue Label, I cannot tell you have the two different bottlings compare.
Why Pussers Gunpowder Proof Rum is called Gunpowder Proof?
Pussers Gunpowder Proof Rum is so-called due to a method of testing the quality of rum that formed part of British Navy wages in the 18th Century. In an effort to make sure that they were receiving good quality, high strength rum that had not been watered down, sailors would mix a little of the spirit with some gunpowder and try and set fire to it. If the alcohol in the rum was sufficient to allow the gunpowder to burn the flame with a blue flame was considered “proof” that the rum was good and strong. Any rum that would not catch alight would be considered “under-proof” and a rum that burnt more readily than normal, i.e. had a higher proportion of alcohol, would be considered to be “over-proof”. The minimum alcohol concentration that gunpowder would burn in was found to be 57.15% and this was considered 100 degrees proof. From these early beginnings of testing alcohol, the modern methods of alcohol by volume and proof are derived.
Pussers Gunpowder Proof Rum is bottled at 54.5%, so I suppose it is not strictly Gunpowder Proof Rum in the truest sense of the meaning. Whilst mentioning Pussers Gunpowder Proof Rum it is also worth mentioning Navy Strength Gin. Navy strength gin must be bottled at no less than 57% abv. At Fareham Wine Cellar we stock two Navy Strength gins – Plymouth Navy Strength Gin from the UK and Leopolds Navy Strength Gin from Colorado in the USA. Both are bottled at 57%. I assume that Navy connection in the name comes from the similar thing to the Gunpowder Proof rum, after all gin was a very popular Navy drink. However various sources state that this strength derives from the fact that gunpowder could be lit if Navy strength gin was spilled on it – somehow I doubt if there was much gin sloshing around gun decks during battle. It is most likely derived from being tested, like the rum, as being gunpowder proof.
Last week, I was lucky enough to meet George Freegard, the International Brand Manager for Sales and Procurement, and Gary Rogalski, President and CEO of Pussers Rum. They were on a whistle stop tour of the UK visiting various suppliers, retailers and bars that distribute Pussers rum. They were in our area taking the time to make a considerable donation to The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC) at the charity’s home of HMS Excellent, Portsmouth (just down the road from us at Fareham Wine Cellar). Amongst other things we discussed the new Pussers Gunpowder Proof Rum and a new Pussers Spiced Rum – a gentle modernisation seems to be creeping through the company.
Quite frankly, I am surprised it has taken so long for Pussers to get into the spiced rum market. Going back 10 years or so, there were only a handful of spiced rums on the market, today there are well over a hundred spiced rums. In the UK popular brands include Captain Morgan, Kraken, Barcardi’s Oakheart, Sailor Jerry, and many more, varying in style from dark and sweet all the way through to more elegant, dryer styles. Some are made in a very artisanal way using aged rums and steeping the herbs and spices, some are made by colouring and sweetening flavoured white rum with caramel and there is a whole range of intermediate styles in between! Spiced rum is one of the fastest growing spirits categories. Rum sales in general are growing and the WIRSPA (The West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association Inc.) in their report 2013 “A Decade of Rum” state that, between 2000 and 2010, “rum enjoyed a growth rate of +40%, ahead of one of the most talked about categories of the decade, vodka”. In the same period, “spiced rum has more than doubled in size over the last ten years and flavoured varieties are up by over 50%.”
Pussers Spiced Rum
So what makes Pussers Spiced Rum different from all the other spiced rums on the market? Obviously Pussers Rum has a long and historical association with the Royal Navy that no other rum has but what is the Pussers Spiced Rum USP?
The base rum is a blend of young Barbados column still and pot still rums. The secret blend (naturally) of herbs and spices are obviously Caribbean spices, but the dominant one here is ginger. There is also some citrus, cinnamon, vanilla, anise and “other spices” – these are steeped in the base blend for 7 days. This not only allows the herbs and spices to steep it allows for the column and pot still rums to blend together too. Only natural ingredients are used. Imagine a liquid rum and ginger cake.
Tasting notes from the Pussers Rum website – The colour is a rich golden amber. This lively, aromatic spiced rum first provides distinct notes of fresh culinary ginger and cinnamon, followed by layers of orange zest and baking spices such as nutmeg and allspice. Pussers Spiced Rum is not a typical spiced rum and has been crafted with great care resulting in a spiced rum of superb quality.
Pussers Spiced Rum Tasting Notes by Fareham Wine Cellar
Pussers Spiced Rum has a light golden / amber colour. The nose is full with predominantly ginger notes and baking spiced, it is not surprising that Pussers were toying with the idea of calling this Ginger Spiced Rum. There are aromas of allspice, nutmeg, anise / star anise and peppery spice. It also has nutty, caramel and dried fruit notes. The palate is complex, round and smooth. It is initially quite sweet. There are flavours of brown sugar, demerara, ginger and some orange / citrus. Finish is good, clean and lengthy, drying out with a good gingery kick at the end.
Pussers Spiced Rum is bottled at 35% abv which is a little bit low in my opinion. It falls in line with Foursquare Spiced Rum and Sailor Jerry at this strength, but I can’t help but wonder what this would be like if it was bottled at 40% abv. All in all it is a fantastic spiced rum, great for ginger lovers and hopefully it will entice a new generation of rum drinkers to try Pussers rum.
Madeira Saturday – In conjunction with Raymond Reynolds and Barbeito Madeira
Saturday 15th November – 1pm until 5pm
@ Fareham Wine Cellar
55 High Street
Pop in anytime from 1pm until 5pm and try some fantastic wines from Barbeito Madeira and, if you get here early, a slice of Bolo de Mel, a traditional Madeiran cake, made by Alan Williams of the Buxton Cake Company.
Barbeito Rainwater Reserva Madeira has a youthful golden colour, it is quite pale. The nose is full with nuts, almonds, orange peel and quite spicy notes. The palate shows a bit of sweetness and there is very good acidity, meaning that none of the sweetness is cloying at all. It has a very good, clean, long and nutty finish.
Barbeito Single Harvest Colheita 2003 is a golden colour with slight green hints. On the nose there are soft caramel aromas mixed with candied yellow fruit, honeycomb and citrus notes. The palate is full, silky and elegant with a consistent freshness in the aftertaste.
Barbeito Madeira is a family-owned company formed in 1946 by Mário Barbeito. Today Mario’s grandson, Ricardo de Freitas, runs Vinhos Barbeito. Barbeito is a very traditional canteiro style madeira and undergoes no de-acidification nor addition of caramel. Barbeito work closely with local producers and have input with them to ensure that each harvest the grapes are harvested to the specification of winemaker Ricardo de Freitas.
I was invited to Hambledon Vineyard, along with various other great and good people (including wine merchants, customers, shareholders), to “help” with their 2014 harvest. I use the word “help” loosely as between us we only managed to harvest the best part of a single row of vines and I am sure we were probably more of a hindrance than anything else. On the drive up to Hambledon Vineyard, the weather was ominous. Do you remember the Crowded House song Four Seasons in One Day? That just about sums it up – heavy rain showers, bright sunshine and localised flooding in the roads around Hambledon.
If one has been following the 2014 harvest in the UK, one might have read that there has been “near perfect” conditions and that some wine producers started harvesting their grapes two weeks earlier than usual. For example, the harvest at Camel Valley began on September 23rd and was finished by the 7th October, Nyetimber began harvesting on the 7th October. The harvest at Hambledon Vineyard started a little later, beginning on the 8th October, and they expect the harvest to take about 7 days.
So why was 2014 such a good harvest?
As it was explained to me at Hambledon Vineyard, the conditions were almost perfect throughout the growing season. 2014 started with good, spring weather no major frosts. There was an early bud burst, very good flowing conditions and good fruit set. The summer was good and was followed by a mild, warm and dry September. Therefore the yields are very high and at Hambledon Vineyard they expect the harvest to be as good as the very abundant 2010 crop, with less than 1% rot.
Healthy Chardonnay Grapes at Hambledon Vineyard harvest 2014
As mentioned above, there was some pretty heavy rain storms around at the beginning of October, and indeed there were on the 9th, when I was in the vineyards. However, the chalk soils and sloping vineyards are very free-draining and I was surprised by the lack of mud in the vineyard. If the soils are not well-drained, this can be a problem, especially so close to harvest as the vines can suck up all the water. On the 9th it was also a very windy day in the vineyard ensuring that the grapes dried very quickly after the rain storms and I am told that bringing wet grapes to the winery can dilute the wine.
Back to the harvest… after a quick cup of tea we were taken out in the vineyard to the row of vines we were to be harvesting, row 118, Chardonnay. We were kitted out with pruning shears, 20kg boxes and set to work. Between about 10 of us, we managed to finish one row of vines in a little over an hour. The Hambledon Vineyard 2014 crop seemed very healthy, most vines had a good amount of bunches on them and there was very little rot. Peeking over the vines into the adjacent rows the Pinot Meunier vines seemed to be well laden with many bunches of healthy grapes.
PINOT MEUNIER Grapes at Hambledon Vineyard Harvest 2014
The fruits of my labour, literally
After grape picking we returned to the winery for some sandwiches and a glass or two of Hambledon Vineyard Classic Cuvee Brut and a chat with founder and managing director Ian Kellett, head winemaker Hervé Jestin and Didier Pierson, Champagne producer, wine-making consultant and co-owner of Meonhill Wines with Ian Kellett.
The next bit was something I was interested to see: the loading of the presses and crushing of the grapes. Funnily enough, I had not really seen this being done before as most visits that us wine merchants get invited to at wineries are not at harvest time as they are too busy. Hambledon Vineyard is the UK’s only gravity fed winery which basically means the juice and wine travels throughout the winery, over four floors, via gravity with no pumping. You can read more about this in my previous blog post.
The grapes had been harvested into 20kg boxes, loaded onto pallets and taken, via a lift, to the top floor of the winery where the presses are located. Ian Kellett gave us a quick demonstration on how to load the grapes into the press and two or three of us all had a go at emptying the grapes. It takes two people to do this and once you can get a bit of rhythm going it is quite satisfying. Apparently a similar press would be filled in about 3 minutes by some burly Frenchmen in Champagne (using 50kg boxes), I didn’t time it exactly, but it must have taken us about 15 to 20 minutes!
Loading The Presses at Hambledon Vineyard
As the grapes are crushed the juice flows into the collecting bins (known as belons in French) which are located on the floor below. These are custom built and compartmentalised into 4 sections – two larger ones for the first and second Cuvées, and two smaller ones for “les tailles” (the “tails” or ends) of the pressing. This allows the winemaker far more control – the juice from different parts of the pressing can be treated differently. Contrary to popular belief, the free-run juice and the first part of the pressing is not necessarily the best juice. Head wine-maker Hervé Jestin constantly tastes the juice as it comes out of the press to decide when to switch the juice going into the small container for “les tailles” over to the large container for the main pressing, “the cuvée.” Watching Jervé, there seemed to be a very definite switch from “les tailles” to the main cuvée, something that he has learnt from years of making Champagne. He was ably assisted in all this by Hambledon Vineyard winemaker Antoine Arnault.
At this stage I tried some of the juice and it was certainly very sweet and grapey but it also had a good bit of acidity on the finish. Unfortunately, at this stage we had to leave, and the grapes were still being pressed when we left. Read more about the next step in process from a previous visit.
Thank you to Ian Kellett and all the kind people at Hambledon Vineyard for an very enjoyable and informative day. I urge you to take the time to visit the winery or to attend one of their winemaker masterclass evenings.
Twisted Nose Gin – Small Batch Pot Distilled Winchester Dry Gin
Are you looking for a gin from Hampshire? Then look no further! Twisted Nose Gin is available at Fareham Wine Cellar.
Twisted Nose Gin is made in Winchester, Hampshire by Paul Bowler. It was first released in May 2013, so it is a relative new-comer to the increasingly crowed UK gin scene. It does have a very good unique selling point. Well two, in fact. It is the only Gin made in Hampshire and it is the only Gin to use watercress as one of its botanicals.
As you may know, watercress grows locally around Winchester and the Meon Valley where the crystal clear chalk streams provide an ideal habitat. Watercress is from the genus Nasturtium (not to be confused with genus of flowering Nasturtiums which is actaully Trapaeolum). In Latin Nasturtium means “twisted nose” and is said to be named after the effect on ones nose after eating the spicy, peppery leaves. Hence Twisted Nose Gin.
The water used to make this gin is, of course, local New Forest Spring Water. Watercress is only one of 10 botanicals used to make Twisted Nose Gin.
Angelica – remember the green, crystallised stuff people used to bung on the top of cakes, that is from the Angelica root. I am not sure what part of the plant goes into Twisted Nose Gin!
Liquorice – brings a touch of sweetness
Twisted Nose Gin is only made in very small batches of around 50 bottles. It is distilled in a traditional copper pot still, a descendent of the alembic still, used to make batches of spirits, unlike the continuous distillation of large, more commercial column stills. Pot stills produce a very fine grade of spirit. The botanicals are gently crushed, mixed and macerated pure, neutral spirit to release the oils that give the gin its characteristic flavours. The spirit and macerated botanicals are then re-distilled in the pot still and only the heart of the distillate is used for the final bottling.
Twisted Nose Gin has a good clear colour with a slightly blue-ish tinge.
Nose: The nose is spicy and peppery. There are floral notes, a big hit of citrus fruit and some more spicy coriander and anise (fennel) notes
Palate: The citrus really comes through on the palate with lots of pink grapefruit. There are more floral and fennel flavours.
Finish: Very nice, clear, dry finish with very good length.
If serving as a gin and tonic use a slice of pink grapefruit or pink grapefruit zest instead of lemon or lime as a garnish. If you are feeling playful you could also garnish with a sprig of watercress. Of course, it will be great in a Martini and recommend cocktails include a Salty Dog which is basically gin and grapefruit juice, which ties in nicely with the pink grapefruit used as a botanical.
Salty Dog Recipe
2 parts Twisted Nose Gin
5 parts Grapefruit juice, pink grapefruit juice would be good
Shake the vodka and grapefruit juice with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a salt-rimmed highball glass and serve straight up, without ice.
Sparkling Sake is relatively new style of Sake and is one of the fastest growing categories of sakes on the market. Until recently it was fairly unknown outside of Japan but there are now quite a few different brands of sparkling sake available on the UK market. Sparkling Sake is made is made using a very similar method to the traditional method of sparkling wine production i.e. a secondary fermentation in the bottle. It is made in the same way as normal Sake, but then the Sake and Koji fungus (not technically a yeast, but it performs the same function) are allowed to undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle which produces carbon dioxide and therefore a sparkling Sake. Unlike traditional method sparkling wines, it is not disgorged, so a small amount of fine sediment remains in the bottle.
At Fareham Wine Cellar we stock Ninki-Ichi Junmai Ginjo Happo-Sheishu Sparkling Sake from the Ninki-Ichi Brewery located in Nihonmatsu City in the Fukushima prefecture of Japan. The brewery is surrounded by the Abukuma mountain ranges to the east and Adatara Mountain ranges to the west so run-off snow melt gives Ninki-Ichi a natural water source, with a good balance of minerals, which is essential for producing high-grade Sake. Ninki-Ichi Junmai Ginjo Happo-Sheishu is a clean, light, easy to drink Sake in an off-dry and refreshing style. Absolutely no additives are used, and it has a truly natural sweetness and acidity.
How to serve Sparkling Sake
Clear or Cloudy?
Sparkling Sake will have a small amount of the fine sediment, the remains of the koji mould used to ferment the sake, in the bottom of the bottle. A recent question from a customer about how to serve sparkling Sake set me thinking. I had only ever had it served cloudy before. So I asked my suppliers to find out for me, and the answer from Mr. Yonezawa at the Ninki-Ichi brewery came back that it can be served either cloudy or clear depending on one’s personal preference. It seems that it is more likely to be drunken cloudy in Japan, whilst Europeans, who are mainly brought up on clear wine, often serve it clear. Either way it needs to be served chilled. If you want to serve it cloudy, that is pretty easy – open the bottle slightly, gently let the gas out, close the bottle again and just turn the bottle upside down a couple of times to distribute the sediment before you gently open the bottle. If you want to serve it clear then leave the bottle upright in the fridge for a couple of days, gently open the bottle just enough to let the gas out gently, then open it fully and very gently pour the sparkling sake, in one go if possible, keeping the settled sediment at the bottom of the bottle. As you can see in the photograph below, it is a only a very fine sediment and does not detract from the enjoyment of the sake at all.
Sparkling sake is quite low in alcohol at between 5 and 8% abv. and is a great refreshing alternative to sparkling wine. It can be served as an aperitif but it is also a very versatile partner to all sorts of foods. It doesn’t go particularly well with spicy, rich dishes (it will be easily over-powered), but is great with mushroom dishes, fish (sushi perhaps!) and various cheeses.