Japanese Purity

Translation By: 
Alice Kok
Rare organic sake exclusively presented at Mizumi restaurant at Wynn Palace
When it comes to fine dining, few properties in Macau do it quite like Wynn Macau and its newer sister property Wynn Palace, and its Michelin starred Japanese restaurant Mizumi is certainly no exception.
As part of the experience at Mizumi, guests have the opportunity to enjoy not only fine Japanese cuisine, but also some of the most exceptional sake from the country.  And one man who is keen to promote Japan’s traditional beverage and educate local gastronomes, is Kenichi Ohashi, who is uniquely both a Master of Wine and a Sake expert assessor. 
At the invitation of Wynn Palace, last year Kenichi brought to Macau some exquisite sake from the Nechi Valley in Niigata prefecture.  And earlier this month, continuing the tradition, he returned to Macau with Tadayuki Matsuse, CEO of Matsunotsukasa sake, for a training session for media and some of the city’s F&B leaders, followed by an exclusive sake pairing dinner.
“Matsunotsukasa places a strong emphasis on culture, tradition and religion, using the soft water typical of the region and short grain Yamada Nishiki rice,” noted Mr Ohashi at the beginning of his presentation. “Matsuse-san’s sake is very rare and hard to find, even in Japan.”
Kenichi goes on to explain that Mr Matsuse’s dedication to traditional and organic methods of production are what make his sake so unique and highly sought after.
Mr Tadayuki Matsuse and Mr Kenich Ohashi
“Matsuse-san uses organic rice farming, which requires a higher number of workers and results in about 20 percent less production.  It is very difficult to have a sustainable level of production using this method, and in fact, less than one percent of sake producers use organic methods.”
“In Shiga prefecture, we have a very big, beautiful lake, Lake Biwa, and there are strict rules regarding agriculture,” adds Mr Matsuse.  “If we use chemicals, there is a chance they could run off into the lake, so I decided to adopt organic methods.”
The resulting varieties of sake produced at Matsunotsukasa all exhibit a very gentle, less savoury palate than other more commonly available sake.  Matsuse’s sakes typically present a very compact and clean palate, with very subtle perfumes with hints of marshmallow, banana and peach.
“Matsuse-san’s sake is very delicate, very fresh, with a compact length and purity rather than complexity. The most important thing with sake is harmony, and his are very well-balanced and poised on the palate,” explains Kenichi.
“Because of this, they are not so good to pair with very strong flavours. They pair better with modest flavours, perfect with Japanese puffer fish fillet or vegetable tempura,” he adds.
One of the very special sakes presented at the event was Matsunotsukasa’s Kimoto Junmai, “a classic expression of Kimoto style sake best enjoyed at around 45 degrees,” notes Kenichi.
Exhibiting very smooth flavours with slightly higher acidity, this sake is produced using the very challenging Kimoto fermentation process, whereby no cultured yeast is added.
“This is very risky,” Kenichi points out. “Usually producers can control the mash with artificial yeast, which is completely analysed in terms of the final aromatic profile and acidity. But if not added, you cannot predict the final product style. Matsuse-san should be able to control this, but he can’t because he doesn’t add the yeast.  If the style of the final sake changes, he cannot release it, so it’s a great risk.” 
Mr Matsuse explains that his reason for using this approach is to try to keep a very clean tight palate and minimize the savoriness of the sake.  The fermentation process takes two months, compared to the usual time of less than one month, and is very temperature sensitive, requiring lower temperatures to reduce spoilage.  
Despite the very delicate nature of the process, Mr Matsuse humbly reflects that in over 20 years, he has only failed once!  An impressive record and a truly delightful drinking experience.
Matsunotsukasa sake is available exclusively at Mizumi Restaurant at Wynn Macau and Wynn Palace.