Hiro Sake

By George Brozowski

If you still think that Sake is rice wine, then you don't know Jack! Rice wine, per say, really doesn't exist. You see, normal wine is made by the fermentation of grapes or other naturally sweet fruit. Beer is brewed employing a mashing process. Rice alcohol is produced through a method closer to beer making, called an amylolytic process. Rice doesn't have much sugar and you need sugar to produce alcohol. However, rice has a lot of starches, and they are converted through the amylolytic process into sugar which can then be brewed to produce the alcohol. So you see "Rice Wine" is more closely related to beer than wine and should more correctly be called rice beer.

Now that you know Jack, let me introduce you to Hiro. Over 200 years ago Hiroemon Takeda, (Samurai and Sake connoisseur) and the namesake of Hiro Sake, worked with the most skilled Toji (Master Brewer) to produce a sake recipe that would be received as a work of art and preserve his legacy for all time. 200 years later, the Taiyo Sake Brewery of Nigata Japan has recreated that recipe using specially steamed and polished Koji rice, ground water from melted mountain snow, and last but not least Sake yeast.

All that being said, they then fine tune their sake to produce two versions: the blue is Junmai Ginjo Sake that is recommended for drinking chilled or over ice, and the red version, Junmai Sake is served warm. It all sounds pretty good, but after all, the proof is in the tasting, so let's get to it.

The bottles speak to the simplicity and elegance of Japanese design and are simple and straightforward with the glass being slightly frosted and the "i" in Hiro being dotted by either a blue or red dot. The red, meant to be consumed warm, has an earthy, grassy nose that is accompanied by pear and vanilla but the overall essence is that of the rice. Just like Tequila presents the agave flavor and Scotch the barley, this sake has that unmistakable rice aroma. On the palate, the taste is light, smooth and earthy, nicely balanced between a bit of sweet with a touch of tang, followed by the fruitiness of banana, but overall undeniably sake. The finish is medium in length, well rounded and smooth, leaving that wonderfully earthy flavor behind for you to savor.

The blue Hiro has a stronger nose featuring more of those rice and earth aromas followed by a touch of maple syrup and the barest hint of pear. The palate presents a bit more dry and tart than the red and is not quite as fruity but leans more toward yeasty bread. The finish is, of course, smooth and medium in length leaving an earthy, yeasty flavor. To be perfectly honest, I tried the blue warm first just to be hard headed and even handed when initially comparing the two and now I will try it the way it is meant to be served, chilled. The nose is still quite earthy but becomes much brighter and fruitier while still retaining the earthiness. On the palate, the earthy rice flavor becomes a bit more subtle and sweeter making it that much more interesting.

The finish shortens up a bit and is far more subtle but still earthy and sweet without the tart overtones. I do believe they are quite right that this blue should be served chilled but it ain't bad warm either.
They are both very enjoyable sakes whether you drink them warm or at room temperature or chilled. Either way, they will go great with sushi, sashimi, and tempura or even fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

Hiro Red Junmai sake is available in 750 ML bottles for around $29.99 and Hiro Junmai Ginjo Blue comes in around $39.99 per 750 ML bottle and both are 15% ABV.

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