Umami Mart Registry
Preparing the rice for sake-making at Tsuji Honten, maker of Gozenshu Bodaimoto 1959Preparing the rice for sake-making at Tsuji Honten, maker of Gozenshu Omachi Bodaimoto 1859 Junmai

I have been a bit obsessed with bodaimoto since I visited Shoryakuji Temple in Nara last year. Bodaimoto is a style of sake that uses a very old starter technique and was discovered during the Kamakura (1185-1333) and Muromachi (1333-1568) periods. Buddhist monk, Ohara-san of the temple, who has been brewing sake at Shoryakuji for 38 years, explained to me that sake used to be brewed during the summer. In order for the fermentation not to spoil, they discovered that they could create a starter with a highly acidic environment by combining water, mostly uncooked rice, and a little bit of cooked rice. They would leave this mixture in ambient summer temperatures (very hot in Nara, around 80-90°F), which would create soyashi-mizu, sour water with lots of lactic acid. They would then separate the rice from the soyashi-mizu and save both. The rice would be steamed, then the soyashi-mizu, cooked rice, and koji would be combined for the starter. Traditionally bodaimoto used kuratsuki kobo, or ambient yeast that lived in the brewery. The resulting sake is usually high in acidity (great to pair with food), and exhibits a complex range of flavors (including banana, yogurt, mushroom, and sour grapes). Because of this, I do love surprising wine drinkers with bodaimoto – the acidity is familiar but the umami flavors are a revelation. One of the coolest things about bodaimoto is that it allows you to step back in time, imagining that these sakes are pretty close to what people were drinking 800 years ago.

In the past, the word bodaimoto was exclusively used for sake made with starter from Shoryakuji Temple. If the starter was made with the same method of using water and uncooked rice but not at the Shoryakuji, you could refer to the sake as mizumoto. The lines are even more blurred now. All of the breweries I am featuring for the next two months consider the words interchangeable. Please read next month’s newsletter for more about mizumoto.

Yoko (Co-Founder, Umami Mart)

Gozenshu Omachi Bodaimoto 1859 Junmai
Tsuji Honten (Okayama, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Omachi 65%, SMV: +3, Acidity: 2, Yeast: 1401

I am particularly excited to feature the Gozenshu 1859 Bodaimoto, which is a new release this year. Brewed by Maiko Tsuji of Tsuji Honten, who is committed to bodaimoto and says, “Bodaimoto disappeared during the Edo period when Kimoto was developed. It was a method that was rarely used, but in 1984 Gozenshu was the first in the country to restore it.” When I asked her why she decided to make bodaimoto in the first place, she explained, “Years ago, the president’s uncle and I ran a Japanese antique shop in London, and in London we acquired an ancient book that describes the brewing of sake in the past called Nihon Sankai Meisanzue (Japanese Sankai Famous Products). The book had a section about bodaimoto, and the previous brewer at Tsuji Honten, Harada-san took on the challenge of restoring it. In 2007, I became the brewer and gradually began to increase the volume of bodaimoto sake. As of 2024, approximately 60% of all the sake we brew is bodaimoto.”

The team at Tsuji Honten including  Maiko Tsuji (head brewer, bottom right)The team at Tsuji Honten including  Maiko Tsuji (head brewer, bottom right)

The bodaimoto method brings out aromas of creme fraich while notes of fresh muscat grapes, lime, and green apple peek through. A master of her craft, Tsuji-san contrasts these vivid aromas with an effervescent texture, and dry finish reminiscent of fresh, bitter, spring greens. Enjoy chilled to get fruit aromas or at room temperature to enhance the umami rich flavors and the pleasant bitterness of Omachi rice (which was discovered in 1859, hence the year in its namesake). The assertive flavors and acidity works well with barbequed meats, and collared greens sauteed in butter.

Daigo no Shizuku Bodaimoto Nama Muroka Genshu Junmai
Terada Honke (Chiba, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Koshihikari 90%, SMV: -20~-80, Acidity: 5-12, Yeast: Ambient

Terada Honke, which has been operating for over 350 years, is often recognized as the darling of the natural sake movement. Their motto is “Learning from nature and brewing sake according to it.” 

Soyashi-mizu, water of soaked,  uncooked rice at Terada HonkeSoyashi-mizu, water of soaked,  uncooked rice at Terada Honke

The motivation to brew a bodaimoto came from its former master brewer. Yaegashi-san of the brewery explains, “A former temple monk approached our 23rd generation owner of the time Keisuke Terada with the idea of brewing sake with us. He later became our toji (master brewer).” As a former monk, the toji brought with him the knowledge of bodaimoto. Yaegashi-san continues, “Bodaimoto undergoes an unusual process of ‘going bad to get better’ before becoming sake. From an initially putrid, sour-smelling state, it is transformed by natural lactic acid bacteria and yeast into an impressively delicious sake. Starting from the negative, it turns into the positive. That is the charm of Daigo no Shizuku.” This sake is unique in that it uses kuratsuki kobo (wild yeast living in the brewery). “Our sake is characterized by the use of sake rice grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers,” Yaegashi says.

The low-intervention style of bodaimoto coupled with low-polish creates intensely cloudy yellow brew with notes of orange peel, honey, and lemon which reminds me of tej (Ethiopian honey wine) with a heavy dose of acidity. Our favorite pairing was having this sake chilled with red chicken curry from Teni East Kitchen. The rich, spicy curry contrasted well with the sweet and sour flavors of Terada's bodaimoto.

Read my interview with Yaegashi-san from Terada Honke here!

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Column: Sake Gumi News


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