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17 Oct 2023 By

You Probably Don’t Know That Much About Nagano Sake But You Really Should.

It’s a testament to Nagano sake’s unexplored potential that I find myself with 50 other aficionados on a Sunday afternoon at The Dempsey Project, trying to learn more about it. The Savour Nagano Masterclass — organised by Sake Matsuri — was led by Master Sake Sommelier Joshua Kalinan, and it also involved food pairing with produce from the prefecture known as “the roof of Japan”.


Savour Nagano

 Class is in session.

For those unfamiliar with Nagano’s sake breweries, you might be surprised to learn that the prefecture has more than 80 of them, second only to Niigata in Japan. Its unique mountainous terrain — 3,000 metres above sea level — provides distinct rice, conditions and methods to brew their sake. The snowmelt water provides a distinct purity and freshness, but water boils at 92°C up there, so brewing methods have to be adjusted accordingly. Its sake profiles, according to Joshua, can be described as full, rich, approachable with a touch of sweetness, “and some of the sake are umami rich too”.

[Fun Fact: Nagano was voted “Best Prefecture To Move To” 16 years in a row.]

bottles Savour Nagano

Our first dish is the Shinshu Salmon Ceviche, which has some Peruvian elements but is also unmistakably Singaporean, especially with the savoury coconut ice cream topping. The floral notes of the Endo Premium Flower sake are inviting, and its apple and melon palate complements the slightly spicy flavours of the dish, helping to round it off. “This has the right amount of acidity to go with the rich and fatty salmon, and at the same time can take on the creamy coconut sauce,” Master Somm Joshua tells us. (Another recommended pairing for this sake is nasi lemak.)

bottles Savour Nagano

The second sake is also from the 160-year-old Endo Brewery. This Keiryu Daiginjo Shizuku sake tastes delicate yet flavourful, with a bit of heft to go with the quirky pizza — featuring Pink and Golden Oyster Mushrooms from Nagano. Sixth-generation brewer Hidesaburo Endo uses innovative methods, while preserving tradition, to give his sake freshness and acidity.

bottles Savour Nagano

This is the first proof that Nagano sake pair well with spicier dishes. The Kinmon-Nishiki Junmai Daiginjo is a perfect foil for this battered tofu and its sweet, spicy sauce. Rounded and with umami notes, this combination is a tango in a ballroom. I can see this gorgeous and mellow sake with hokkien mee as well. CEO Yoshimasa Ono’s sake are award winners both in Japan and abroad.  

bottles Savour NaganoJunmai Daiginjo Tamara La Grace is from a brewery founded in 1689 (early Edo period), and their brewmasters still use its terraced rice and water to make exceptional sake. This funk and full-bodied sake is brewed to complement food, and we suggest pairing it with laksa, mala dishes or Indian rojak.

bottles Savour Nagano

We are back to Onoshuzouten Brewery, and Yoshimasa Ono’s Sankei-Nishiki Junmai Daiginjo is the best of the lot today. This beauty has unexpected pairing power with the broth dish even as garlic and spices fight for attention, but the sake harmonises it with elegance and ease. This, I reckon, will complement any savoury zi char dish.

joshua savour nagano

“Nagano sake pair well with Singapore cuisine because each style of sake has a certain profile,” Master Sommelier Joshua (above) tells us.

bottles Savour Nagano

This unique sake is shipped frozen and is trickier to export but worth it for its unusual ability to pair with desserts, especially ice creams. Takanami Frozen Daiginjo has a higher ABV of 17%, and you drink it like a slushy as you thaw the bottle — it’s definitely different! Besides desserts, this sake will also pair well with wanton mee or curry dishes.
Fun Fact: Immediately after the sake is brewed, it is flash-frozen to capture its deliciousness. When you drink it at room temp, you are experiencing the atmosphere of a historic brewery.

After experiencing Nagano’s finest, I’m sold on the sake, the produce and on the destination.

All the above-mentioned sake are available from Link Nagano starting end of November. It’s still in the pre-opening stage, but here is your special password for it: prelinknagano


About Sake Matsuri

Sake Matsuri is Singapore’s largest independent craft sake festival, promoting sake appreciation through culture, craftsmanship and lifestyle. Created by sake lovers for sake lovers, the festival aims to raise awareness and appreciation for craft sake. The upcoming edition on 4–5 November 2023 will showcase more than 200 sake (and Japanese spirits), including seasonal releases, competition-winning sake and sake that have never been available in Singapore!

Get your tickets to Sake Matsuri, happening 4–5 November, now!

Instagram: @sakematsurisg

In Partnership With Sake Matsuri.

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