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A Menu For Hope: Rihaku Shuzo "Dreamy Clouds" Sake

Communities all over the world have come together in support of tsunami victims, their families, and their countries. I am happy to be taking part in a special effort by food and wine bloggers to contribute to these relief efforts. Several of the most respected and prominent food bloggers on the Internet have assembled the following menu of recipes (or in my case wine pairings) which we are providing to our readership to stimulate charitable donations (and good eating). I encourage you to take and use these recipes, drink the suggested wines, and more importantly, donate to a worthy cause. Details on my suggested wine follow below the menu.



Rihaku Shuzo Nigori "Dreamy Clouds" Tokubetsu Junmai Sake, Shimane Prefecture, Japan.

This sake is classified as Junmai-Ginjo (one step below the finest class of sakes, Dai-Gingjo), which means that a significant portion (40%) of the rough exterior of the rice kernels were polished away before being fermented. The higher the grade of sake, the more of the kernel must be polished away before fermentation.

This is also a Nigori, or unfiltered sake, which means that it is milky or cloudy in appearance (hence the name) due to the presence of rice gluten, which are basically the lees, or the leftover bits of rice from the fermentation process. Normally, just like in grape winemaking, the sake is racked or filtered to remove this sediment, but in the case of Nigori sake, it is left in the brew, adding a slightly sweet glycerin quality to the final flavor.

Rihaku Shuzo sake brewery has been in business since 1882. It took its current name in 1928, deciding that the wandering poet Rihaku (also known as Li Po) would be a good moniker and perhaps source of inspiration. Rihaku was an itinerant poet famous for imbibing before inscribing. He was known to say "I drink a bottle, and can write 100 poems."

Rihaku Shuzo uses locally drawn well water and extremely high quality rice for their sake and like many of their Western winemaker counterparts, they try to keep yields low to focus on quality.

Tasting Notes:
A pale milky white in the glass with hints of blue, this sake has a light fresh aroma of wet wood and spring flowers. In the mouth its slightly sweet flavors that evoke Asian pears, jasmine, and rainwater. It finishes clean without much heat, and very aromatically.

Food Pairing:
This light, slightly sweet sake is one of the few things that can match a diversity of flavors from the Indian spices of the Samosas to the fresh vegetables of the Summer Rolls, to the savory and spicy chutney that accompanies the Khari Poori. It is generally a good match for Asian cuisine that proves difficult to pair with most wines.

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How Much?: $28 per 720ml, $15 per 300ml

You can purchase this sake from various Internet merchants. It can also relatively well distributed in the US. Look for it anyplace you know that sells sake.
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