Yuki No Bosha 'Cabin in the Snow' Junmai Ginjo: Low + Slow Wins the Race
After years of drowning the taste of microwaved sake in cheap cold beer, Yuki No Bosha “Cabin in the Snow” Junmai Ginjo was like a lightning strike that immediately woke me to what sake could be. After that, I began to explore the ginjo category as a whole, trying to understand how these complex floral, fruity notes could come from rice.
Technically, in order for a sake to be called ginjo, the sake rice needs to be milled to 60 percent or less than the original grain size in the first step of production (milling).
But what happens after that? Well, that’s where the fun really begins.
Let’s dig in!
First, there is no other beverage in the world like sake. Seriously.
Sake making requires a unique fermentation process called multiple parallel fermentation that enables the koji to turn the starchy rice into sugar at the same time (in parallel, if you will) the yeast is converting that sugar into alcohol. This process makes for a very vigorous fermentation and is the reason sake clocks in around 16-20% undiluted.
Wait, why are we in science class? Because it is fermentation, specifically a low and slow fermentation, that coaxes forth the floral, fruity notes that ginjo sake is known for.
Each brewery’s brewmaster, or toji in Japan, carefully moderates the delicate dance between the four ingredients — koji, rice, yeast, and water — to ensure that everyone gets their turn. Without proper supervision, multiple parallel fermentation will, well, dance dirty (and not in the Patrick Swayze kind of way).
The balance and control required to keep these two processes from outrunning each other is what makes sake production one of the most complex and difficult alcohol processes in the world.
Getting Fermentation to Behave
Temperature is one of the Toji’s best tools for such moderation. By controlling temperature, the Toji can extend the time of the fermentation process to allow for the aromas and flavors to more fully develop.
Photo by Oishii Magazine
Yuki No Bosha is one of the best examples of this mastery. Saiya Shuzoten, the brewery behind Yuki No Bosha, is located in Akita Prefecture in northern Honshu, Japan’s main island. The region experiences a long winter season and heavy snowfall which keeps the air pristine and cold; the ideal environment for ginjo’s long fermentation requirements.
Saiya also uses an underground spring water source and a local cultivar of rice called Komachi. A distant relative of Gokyumangohku, Komachi was first introduced to the brewing scene in 1992 specifically for ginjo brewing. Since then, it has been quickly gaining popularity across Japan as fast as Saiya keeps winning sake competitions. Coincidence? I think not.
The end product of Saiya’s TLC is the elegant and intoxicating Yuki No Bosha. While this beautiful bottle has won ten gold-medals in 15 years of competition, don’t lock this one away for special occasions. Rather, I highly recommend keeping a bottle in the fridge for the next take out night. Yuki No Bosha makes the spicy, bold flavors of Thai, Sichuan, Mexican, Korean and Vietnamese food S-I-N-G.
So buy a bottle, chill it down, and support one of your local restaurants today.
And remember, for quality sake, low and slow wins the race. How’s that for a life lesson? ~
Yuki No Bosha 'Cabin in the Snow' Junmai Ginjo
Producer: Saiya Brewing Company
Category: Junmai Ginjo
Milling Ratio: 55%
About: Founded in 1903, the Saiya Brewery is one of the most award-winning breweries at the Japanese National Sake Competition. In the past 15 years of the competition, the brewery has won an astonishing ten gold medals. Mr. Takahashi, their brewmaster, has been recognized by the Emperor of Japan as a cherished craftsman and skilled sake brewer. Saiya was also the first brewery to be certified organic by the ASAC.
What we taste: As the temperatures climb, a cabin in the snow is precisely where we want to be. Chill this baby down to bring out its vibrant minerality, asian pear and white pepper. As it gradually warms, the nose of melon, herbs and fennel will go from understated to over-the-top (in a good way).
Takeout Buddies: Mahaniyom. It’s hard to go wrong at Mahaniyom but the “non-negotiables” with every order are the Chicken Kra-Pow, Kang Puu Crab Curry, Beef Massaman and Pomelo Salad. Do yourself a favor and order extra roti for when you find yourself sneaking seconds late night.
For more information on Saiya Shozoten brewery, read Oishii Magazine’s write up here.