Gonin Musume "Shizen no Manma" - Junmai Kimoto Namazake - 1.8L
The smooth and lively flagship from uber-natural brewery, Terada Honke. (*Nerd Alert*) Terada Honke are infamously staunch adherents to a naturalist-minimali...
The smooth and lively flagship from uber-natural brewery, Terada Honke.
Terada Honke are infamously staunch adherents to a naturalist-minimalist philosophy of sake brewing. Generally, opinions on their sake fall to extremes of cultish respect and adoration or perplexed dismissal. Fulamingo tends towards the respect and adoration pole, but also think it's fair to warn: Their products are not for everyone! That being said, this sake from Terada Honke's Gonin Musume brand sits on the most-approachable-and-friendly end of the spectrum of their releases.
Fans of namazake will enjoy this. Fans of natural wines, too! We also would heartily recommend this to sake drinkers who like history, adventure, and discovery.
Shizen no Manma is visually bright and clear, with a straw-yellow hue flecked with olive.
On the nose is a resounding greeting of fresh ripe peaches and pears. The fruit cavalcade is followed up by rice straw, noughat, cream, and a lemon freshness rounds out the aromas.
On the palate, Shizen no Manma is bright and alive, with a drying finish. Fruits such as pineapple, lemon, and tangerine presents themselves upfront, but then swiftly veer into pleasant and rich bitter herbs. It's a wild ride that sticks the landing in surprisingly refreshing fashion, considering the initial wildness of the first of the sip. Digging further into the palate, I also noted a mineral quality, like river rocks or rain on granite. Lots of flowers and grasses too, as well as a hint of Castelveltrano olive.
About the Production
Terada Honke, brewer of Gonin Musume brand, exclusively uses rice farmed organically, without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. They prize biodiversity within their rice fields as a sign of ecological health. They produce their sake with a minimum of ingredients, including their own strain of koji, and ambient yeasts and lactic acid bacteria from within the brewery. Almost all of their sake is Kimoto starter mash method.
This is Junmai sake polished to 70% of it's original rice grain size.
If you were looking for natural sake, Terada Honke would be its iconoclastic torch-bearing leader. But where there is a movement in Natural Wine: a sea of torches besieging the castle walls of conventional and industrial wine production, Terada Honke's brewmaster Masaru Terada is more like The Hermit depicted in the Tarot. A lone visionary eschewing many of the postwar developments that currently define modern sake.
We would argue that most of the sake that we sell deserves to be called "natural", considering the loose set of criteria that gets applied to it from the natural wine movement. But literally no other brewer goes farther in spirit or practice than Terada Honke to make a truly natural product that exceeds even much of what passes for natural wine in stringent adherence to an ethos.
*Fulamingo uses the term "Natural Sake" with much hesitation and footnoting. It needs to be said that "Natural sake", as a corollary to the activist movement of Natural Wine, produces unfair assumptions about the state of conventional sake production in Japan, and how that might compare to the problems that might exist with conventional wine. Sake and wine are so significantly different that the term "Natural Sake" becomes too baggage-laden to be immediately useful. It's only once we understand the important differences between wine and sake as industries and cultures, and then the movements and choices made within those two respective spheres, can we then begin to use the term Natural Sake without fear of damaging the reputation of a whole lot of very good "conventionally made" sake. Hence the lengthy footnote.
We are loathe to dismiss so much amazing sake as non-"natural" in a false-equivalence comparison of sake to wine. For one strong example, Japan places strict legal restrictions on what can go into premium sake and how it is brewed. Compare that to "natural wine" which as of yet lacks any firm, let alone legally binding, standards. If we are not careful, lazily applying the word "natural" to sake threatens a false implication that the sake industry has the same problems that wine industry has. If I had to look at both industries as a whole, I would pick sake in a heartbeat and not look back. This is not a dig at the natural wine movement, which we deeply respect. Rather this is a caution against an unfair and damaging oversimplification of Japan's greater sake industry.
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