Tales of Sake in Fukui The Benefits of Ageing

Tales of Sake in Fukui The Benefits of Ageing

10 Dec 2020

Tales of Sake in Fukui The Benefits of Ageing

For wine connoisseurs, even in Japan, the vintage of a wine is a key criterion in wine selection.  Koshu, or old sake, however, has typically not enjoyed a good reputation among contemporary Japanese people, for whom shinshu, or new sake, might be the most popular variety.

However, this has not always been the case. A 300-year-old document describes how a sake that has been aged for 45 years has the richest and most desirable taste. Maybe, then, it is time for koshu to make a comeback. Although an increasing number of varieties of aged sake have been hitting the market recently, perhaps aged sake will garner attention overseas before it does in Japan.

The Association for Long Term Aged Sake was established in 1985, and today more than 41 member breweries are engaged in the production of aged koshu. Aged koshu is described as "refined sake that has been aged for more than three years at a brewery, excluding those using sugar or artificial sweeteners." Although many breweries have no doubt already produced such sake, a lack of clear labeling has meant that it hasn’t really met the requirements of consumers, something which breweries have deeply regretted. Let us now take a look at a brewery that is focusing its efforts on koshu.

An Honest Brewery

Ono City in Fukui Prefecture is most famous for Echizen Ono Castle, also known as the "castle in the sky." Between November and April, the castle appears through a sea of clouds at dawn, offering tourists a magnificent view. However, due to heavy snowfall, in the middle of winter, the mountains from which the castle can be seen are inaccessible, meaning that November is the best time to visit.

This heavy snowfall produces delicious water, and in turn delicious sake. The snow in Ono has been likened to white diamonds, and the spring water from the area has been selected among Selection of 100 Japan Water. Nambu Shuzojo has been producing sake in the region for approximately 300 years, and in addition to traditional sake, more recently it has started production of aged koshu. The brewery says that, by using traditional sake brewing methods and ageing the resulting product, it has succeeded in creating a koshu with an exotic taste that is delicious beyond imagination.

The brewery also produces kijoshu, a type of sake made by replacing the water used in the fermentation process with sake. When lining up kijoshu that has been aged for one year, three years, seven years, and 10 years, the color gets gradually darker. Although the sweetness of kijoshu also increases with age, it is a clear sweetness, and those unaware might not realize it is sake at all. The brewery's 10-year Daiginjo Junen Koshu sake, meanwhile, has a sophisticated, strong taste and is best served warm. This sake is perfectly suited to accompany a wide variety of cuisines. Takayasu Nambu, head of Nambu Shuzojo, also produces wine using local, wild grapes, and it is his enthusiasm that has led to this diverse range of alcoholic drinks.

Nambu Shuzojo Co., Ltd.
6-10 Motomachi, Ono, Fukui Prefecture 912-0081 (the center of Echizen Ono Shichiken Street)
Business hours: 9:00-17:00
Closed: Irregular closures
Foreign language website

1. Take the train from JR Kyoto Station to JR Fukui Station, change to the JR Hokuriku Line and take the train to JR Echizen-Ono Station, from where it is an approx. 10 min. walk (Travel time: Approx. 155 min.)
2. Take the train from JR Kyoto Station to JR Tsuruga Station, change to the JR Hokuriku Main Line and alight at JR Echizen-Hanando Station, change to the JR Etsumi-Hoku Line(Kuzuryu Line) and alight at JR Echizen-Ono Station, from where it is an approx. 10 min. walk (Travel time: Approx. 190 min.)

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