Ah, June – it’s when summer break kicks in, the days are long, and the tank tops come out. And, if you’ve been a part of our little Umamiverse for a while, you know that June means Sakqueso! It’s when we bust our best pairings of sake and cheese. After a long winter, we deserve all the sun, sake, and cheese the universe has to offer.
Sake and cheese work so well together mainly because they share a common ingredient during fermentation: lactic acid. In addition to creating an environment where unwanted microorganisms cease multiplying, lactic acid results in flavors high in umami. And having sake and cheese, which are both high in umami, creates an umami explosion – often leading one to discover a third flavor that could only be unlocked when having them together.
Yamahais have particularly pronounced tartness because the shubo (starter) method involves naturally occurring lactic acid that is often more sturdy and robust, resulting in flavors reminiscent of yogurt (as is the case with the Level 2 bottle Kunoichi Yamahai Junmai). We also threw in a sake made from red rice (Ine Mankai Junmai Genshu) this year that balances sweetness and acidity for an unforgettable experience for the eyes and taste buds. Genshu (undiluted) sakes also work well with cheese as they tend to have a longer finish, allowing the brew to mingle with foods on the palate. You’ll see a genshu sake incuded in each level.
You may recall that last year our Sakqueso seminar sold out in less than 24 hours. We’ve lured our friend Kevin Cocoran (Certified Cheese Specialist) from Santa Cruz to join us once again to regale us with his cheese expertise. Due to high demand, we are offering two time slots for Sakqueso this year. There will be two sessions on Saturday June 17, at 12-1:30pm and 3-4:30pm. Reserve your tickets early, as this event will sell out! Members will get a secret code via email with special Gumi Pricing. If you can’t find it, call us at 510-250-9559 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy 8th Sakqueso,
Yoko (Co-Founder, Umami Mart)
Hakuro Suishu Kairyo Shinko Genshu Junmai Ginjo
Takenotsuyu Sakagura (Yamagata, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 55% Kairyoshinko, SMV: +2, Acidity: 1.5
This sake is one of my current favorites because of its velvety texture and berry-like aroma. This genshu (undiluted sake) offers a silky texture that isn’t too weighty (often an issue with genshus). Notice the light golden hue of this sake alongside aromas of cooked blackberries, rice, licorice, and melon. The berry bramble note of this chilled sake works wonders with Alpha Tolman gruyere cheese, which is earthy with hints of cashew. This cheese is firm but still retains a moist, raclette-like texture.
Gunma Izumi Yamahai Honjozo
Shimaoka Shuzo (Gunma, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 60% Wakamizu, SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.6
Toji Toshinori Shimaoka tells us that almost all of his sakes are aged two to three years. Because this sake is aged, you’ll notice a golden color along with some funky mineral aromas that remind us of onsen water and fig leaves. I’ve always loved Shimaoka-san’s sakes because they are incredibly brothy and great at room temperature or warm. We were blown away by how this earthy but dry sake went so well with all the goat cheese options we had on our cheeseboard. The cheese winners were Garrotxa, a Basque goat cheese which enhanced the mineralty of the sake, and the Bijou crotin that brought out a hidden caramel sweetness that we wouldn’t have had it not been for this cheese pairing.
Kunoichi Moon Bloom Yamahai Junmai
Wakabayashi Brewing (Nagano, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 70% Hitogokochi, SMV: -6, Acidity: 2.5
It’s not unusual for a yamahai to appear among the roster of picks for Sakqueso month, and this sake is a great example of how lactic and yogurty a yamahai can be. In addition to having the tell-tale yamahai profile of tartness, this sake has a great aroma, consisting of apples, pears, and yogurt. Because the yogurty note is so pronounced, we decided to pair this sake chilled with an equally tart fresh goat cheese by Andante. Pucker up!
Ine Mankai Junmai Genshu
Mukai Shuzo (Kyoto, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 92% Murasaki Komachi, 70% Kyo no Kagayaki, SMV: -40, Acidity: 5.8
I’m very excited to discuss this pairing last, as it’s one that Kayoko, Kevin, and I agreed should be on the dessert menu at our favorite fancy restaurants. Ine Mankai is made with red rice, resulting in a beautiful rose color with aromas of shoyu, stewed tomato and flavors of pomegranate. Serve this sake chilled with Point Reyes Quinta, a soft-ripened, bloomy rind cheesewrapped in Spruce bark infused with the essence of California Bay Laurel. We dubbed this pairing the “Dairy Delight.”