Kawatsuru Junmai Ginjo "Olive"

Kawatsuru Junmai Ginjo "Olive"

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Japan in general is obsessive with perfection and refinement. And although it is the smallest prefecture in Japan, Kagawa is also the only place where olives are grown, thanks to the protected climate and relative dryness (depending on the year we draw data, either the least rainfall or third to least). The Mission olive was introduced ~50 years ago and is now influencing all aspects of local culture: olive wagyu, olive hamachi, sashimi and crudo with local olive oil. It's becoming part of the identity of Kagawa and they are continually innovating its use and integrating olives with the local culture.

For this sake Kawatsuru uses a hyper-local rice, sanuki yoimai. This combined with the unique olive yeast, isolated from the skins of olives by prefectural researchers, gives a briney and buttery character on the palate. It's hard to trust your palate when "olive" sake creates such a power of suggestion, but this might be one of the few sake that earnestly represents the yeast from which it was developed.

According to kuramoto Yuichiro-san, it was incredibly difficult to develop this sake. Whenever you tried to adjust the temperature it would rebel... Want it to be cold? it would warm up, need to warm it up? It would cool down and get sluggish. Ultimately, he had to learn to let the yeast call the shots. The issue is that too high of temperature develops the acidity to excess, while too low of temperature and there’s a risk of stuck fermentation. Low temperatures encourage ginjo aromatics, and the right amount of acidity is necessary to balance its relatively weak fermentation power and residual sweetness. So you have to ferment cold, but always riding the line, and letting the yeast choose its own path. Ultimately, it’s a difficult brew with rewarding outcomes.

Location: Kagawa
Rice: Sanuki Yoimai
Polishing: 55%
Yeast: Sanuki Olive Yeast
Acidity: 2.3
SMV: -3.5
ABV: 14%

Yuichiro-san's favorite pairings would be Spanish food, for example gambas al ajillo. Locally they have older laying hens that they cook in olive oil and paprika until tender— called Bone in (honetsuki) chicken and paprika, which is fantastic as well.