At the most basic level, you only need four things to make sake: water, rice, yeast and koji. However, just as wines reflect their terroir, the grape variety and different yeast strains used, these four components represent a vast range of possible outcomes that impact the sake's flavour, expression, texture, and quality.
Nada, in Kobe, Japan – about 25 kilometres west of Osaka – produces around 25% of Japan’s sake and is home to arguably the country’s most sought-after examples. Why is it so good? Because essentially, each element behind sake production from the water used, to the rice selected, is near perfect for crafting pristine, balanced, and flavoursome sake.
Established in 1751, Fukuju is one of Nada’s preeminent sake breweries. Fukuju sits in the shadow of the Rokko mountain range, which feeds a beautiful, mineral-rich but low-iron source of water, known as Miyamizu, to the township below. The mountains also provide, coincidentally, ideal conditions for cultivating yamadanishiki rice – arguably, Japan’s most favoured rice variety for making sake – as well as cooling winds that assist in stabilising the necessary long, slow fermentation so crucial in the production of high-quality sake.
But let's not digress. While rice is important, it is water that Fukuju takes most seriously. So seriously, in fact, they blend pure, soft, filtered water with Miyamizu to craft their very particular and well-known style of sake. It’s all about striking the balance between their significant history and tradition, and producing modern, elegant sake.
Speaking of tradition, Fukuju is one of Japan's most forward-thinking, sustainable producers. After bearing the (rather destructive) brunt of a large, 7.3 magnitude earthquake in 1995, they rebuilt with seismic resistance, and made the commitment to invest in water storage for similar, future emergencies (their onsite water tank can hold around 70,000 litres – of water). And while the precious water source that supplies Nada’s brewery is free for everyone to harness, Fukuju implemented a system that halves their water use – simply, it seems, for the greater good. They’ve also managed to reduce their C02 emissions – even during a significant period of growth.
Fukuju’s flagship sake is their Junmai Gingo, bottled in the unmistakable blue UV bottle (better for keeping the contents fresh). If you’re just starting your sake journey, here is a great place to kick it off.
Fukuju Junmai Gingo, and Fukuju Daigingo sake is available from:
Surry Hills Fine Wine
Ferry Road Wine and Bar
The Wine Emporium
Prince Wine Stores
For more information, visit dejavusake.com.au/fukuju