Terada Honke "Daigo No Shizuku"
Beautiful Bodaimoto from uber-natural brewery, Terada Honke. (*Nerd Alert*) Terada Honke are infamously staunch adherents to a naturalist-minimalist philosop...
Beautiful Bodaimoto 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!
Fans of natural wine may enjoy this. We also would heartily recommend this to sake drinkers who like history, adventure, and discovery. Also, to those of you who like both sake as well as kefir, kombucha, sour beers, farmhouse ales, and other forms of tart fermentation, maybe go ahead and give this a shot.
Visually Daigo no Shizuku is cloudy, with an olive-flecked yellow hue, with visible lees sediment on the bottom.
On the nose, I'm first greeted with lemon custard and fresh yogurt. This smell reminds me of Calpis, the yogurt-y grapefruit drink! Then there's notes of cream, followed by a barnyard funk of fresh sheep milk cheese. The cheesiness has a slightly parmesan quality to it.
On the palate, is a rich and silky body, slightly sweet, but balanced by a lively kefir-like lactic acidity. There is an earthy undertone of ricefield-in-the rain throughout this, like a wet muddy ground that's held together by the roots from grassy stalks of rice plants. A peaceful field that is rich in life, with the sound of rain falling and bullfrogs croaking.
About the Production
Daigo No Shizuku is made with the ancient Bodaimoto method of starter mash production. Essentially, a mixture of rice and water is allowed to sit and ferment, producing lactic acid from natural lactic acid bacteria. The acidic water is then added to the starter mash. (Rice and water ferments like these are used in natural farming.)
Terada Honke 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. Daigo no Shizuku is Bodaimoto-method.
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 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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