“You cannot step in the same river twice.” Heraclitus
Heraclitus had it right, of course, but he was not writing about winemaking or sake brewing, of which he knew nothing. He was writing about life, the ever-changing nature of our existence. Some winemakers and sake brewers, with the best of intentions, attempt to still the waters in order to accommodate their consumers with a consistent sensory experience. In less philosophical parlance, their goal is standardization.Their attempts sometimes meet with commercial success, but in the end consistency leads to predictability which eventually leads to boredom.
On the other hand, there are those who let the river flow. Many of these makers count themselves among those in the natural-wine movement. Consistency would be unnatural for them. And then there are those who breathe the rarefied air at the apex of the alcoholic pyramid (i.e., Champagne), who know that terroir and the art of blending will yield slight variations from year to year and that is a very good thing indeed.
Recently we had the good fortune of having a conversation with Richard Geoffroy, the former chef de cave (cellarmaster) for Dom Pérignon. Jancis Robinson once called Mr. Geoffroy one of the “wine world’s most important luminaries.” And he certainly illuminated many things for us.
Richard is now producing a high-end sake of exceptional quality—IWA 5. His kura (sake brewery) is due to open in early 2021 in Tateyama. It was designed by the renowned architect Kengo Kuma. As with Champagne, blending is of paramount importance in the production of IWA 5—three types of rice (Yamada Nishiki, Omachi, and Gohyakumangoku) and five yeast strains. The following statement from IWA’s website is especially relevant here: “The making of IWA 5 is not a stable recipe but an experimental process reconsidered every year.” Rest assured, drinkers will never become bored with future iterations of this sake. How can we be so sure of this? Well, we also had the good fortune of tasting IWA 5.
Richard blends sake of various seimaibuai, or rice polishing rates, to arrive at his ideal gravity and balance. He incorporates sake made by the traditional kimoto method to add depth and character. The most appropriate adjective to use when describing what coats the palate is “opulent.” “Coat” is not an exaggeration. We drank IWA 5 from Champagne flutes, and the legs were noticeable, slowly making their way down the sides of the glasses. This is sake with a hefty mouthfeel, subtle flavors, sweet but not cloying, and one which appears capable of being successfully paired with a wide range of dishes. Richard mentioned duck in some of its many delicious manifestations, and one of us thought it might go very well with pad thai. Let the river flow and the good times roll!
Thanks for the bottle!
Recommendation level (out of five stars):
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