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Monday, February 2, 2015

For Pete's Saké! - American Cheese & Japanese Saké

 Saké, AKA Japanese rice wine, has been steadily making inroads in the American wine scene. I’m not a saké expert by any means, but I do know a little about it and recently participated in a sake and cheese tasting, sponsored by SakeOne.

(If you want comprehensive info, my friend Richard Auffrey has a great site about saké ).

You might wonder why sake and cheese, as opposed to sake and sushi…well, cheese and saké both contain lactic and amino acids. For cheeses, the lactic acid contributes to aromas and flavors. In the case of saké, lactic acid often imparts a creamy, buttery taste and aromas. Amino acids, found both in saké and cheese, are specifically glutamates, which when present in foods or beverage, provide a richness and savory quality -- what folks like to call umami. Therefore the flavors tend to be complimentary, not diametrically opposed
Four Saké were presented along with a specific cheese pairing: Going left to right we have: 

1)   Momokawa Organic Junmai w/ Marin French Petite “breakfast” Brie
2)   Momokawa Organic Nigori w/ Laura Chenel’s Chevre
3)   Kasumi Tsuru Kimoto w/ Laura Chenel Ash-Rind Buchette
4)   Yoshinogawa Winter Warrior Junmai Ginjo w/ Rouge River Blue

So, how’d we do?
#1--The saké here is light, very mild with tropical and resin notes and felt too mundane, but you’ve gotta love brie with anything. #2--This is the cheese, goat specifically, that put Laura Chenel on the map. This saké is reminiscent of almond milk, mildly sweet and fairly viscous. #3--Saké was nuttier, a slight mushroom and resin quality which worked well with this aged goat cheese. #4--This saké from the 5th oldest brewery in the world in Japan is full of tropical sweetness, both tart and tangy, a leather funkiness (in a good way) which worked well with the musty, tangy and potent Oregon blue cheese.

The tasting was done on-line with other writers from across the country
The point of this experiment was to get outside of imagined boundaries, try new things and to consider saké and what it might work well with. I’m ultimately a fan of drinking what you want with eating what you like, however that said, there are some favors that coexist together for good reason. So, find some saké to try – these versions ranged from $14 to $27 for a 750 ml, and the cheese from $4.99 to $14.99. Therefore it’s easy to play around with flavors, tastes, viscosities and have fun, and to expand your palate.  Check out SakéOne for tons more info, and read my review of the book Sake Confidential.

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