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農村だより2011 ブログトップ
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記録的な豪雪 [農村だより2011]

 1月28日土曜日午前

  2012年になって、あっと言う間に1月が終わろうとしています。

 12月下旬から降り始めた雪は、その後ずーっと続いて、しかも

 大寒を過ぎてからは、「大雪警報」が連日出ています。積雪は1

 日で50センチから、多いときで80センチになります。

  酒造りの最盛期にあたり、深夜早朝の作業が続く中ですが、

 構内の除雪と屋根雪下ろしも待ったなしの状態で作業をしてい

 ます。根知の酒蔵で酒造りを始めて25年目ですが、これほどの

 大雪は過去に経験がありません。

  酒蔵の建物は一部が改築されましたし、除雪機械設備も昔よ

 り随分よくなっていますので、何とかやりくりしていますが、いよ

 いよ限界に近づきつつあるようです。

  ここまで来ると、あとは大雪の峠を早く越えてほしいと願うばか

 りです。

  酒蔵の中では、難易度の高い仕込みが続いていますが、でき

 てくる酒は根知谷の生まれらしい、軽やかで伸びやかな味わい

 です。酒蔵がすっぽり雪の中に埋まった状態で、酒造環境として

 はこれ以上ないような素晴らしさです。搾った生原酒の調熟もゆ

 っくりと安定した経過が保障されて、とてもいい仕上がりです。

  雪に苦しめられながらも、雪に感謝しなければなりません。機

 械設備に依存しないで、自然環境がベストの酒造環境を整えて

 くれるんですから、これはほんとうに素晴らしいことです。

  2012年の冬は、私の記憶に残る冬になりました。さて、今年

 の米作りはどうなるでしょうか。肉体的な疲労はピークにあります

 が、節分を過ぎれば、春はもうすぐ手が届きそうなところまで来ま

 す。あともう少しガンバレば・・・、ガンバリます。
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Very Special One Pattern [農村だより2011]

 12月22日木曜日午前

  2011年も終わりに近づきました。日本酒の酒蔵にとっては、この12月が出荷の

 最盛期です。一年の締めくくりに酒を酌み交わす機会が多く、また贈答用にも使わ

 れます。酒蔵の中では、しぼりたての新酒が次々に生まれて来ます。季節商品と

 して「しぼりたて生酒」は、12月から1月にかけて多くの愛飲家に楽しんで戴きま

 す。

  「旬」としての「新酒」、「生酒」・「生原酒」はそれはそれでフレッシュな香味を楽し

 む日本酒としてとても大切なものですが、ここでも疎かにされているのが、「米」に

 関する情報です。

  この日本酒は、どこで作られた米で仕込んだのか。

           何という品種の米なのか。

           どんな栽培方法で作った米なのか。

           2011年産の品質はどうだったのか。

           その米の品種特性や品質が味わいに出ているのか。

           昨年、一昨年に比べて、今年の出来映えはいいのか。

  是非、出荷している酒蔵に聞いて戴きたいものです。そうでなければ、ただ単に

 「今年も出ました、新酒です」で終わります。うまいのはいいことですが、それだけ

 ではつまらないですね。常に状況は変化しています。ほんとうはとても面白い話が

 裏にはあるのですから。
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ラジオ局の取材を受けて [農村だより2011]

 12月6日火曜日午前

  先週、某ラジオ局の取材を受けました。いつものように根知谷での

 米作りから酒造りまでについて、限られた時間の範囲内で一生懸命

 に説明しました。幸いにして、先方の聞きたかった事項について、あ

 る程度整理されたカタチでお応えしたようで、番組に使えそうな手応え

 でした。

  酒蔵の紹介って、案外オリジナリティを出しにくいので、我々のように

 「根知谷」という地域に根ざした説明をするのがいいようです。そして、

 「米」についての話題。これも意外に知られていない情報です。五百万石

 や越淡麗の品種特性を説明するだけでも面白いですし、生産年ごとの

 出来栄えは、その年の気候にも大きく左右されるわけですから、毎年

 話題に事欠くことはありません。

  そんなこんなで、取材の予定時間を少しオーバーしてしてしまいました。

 皆さん、意外に「米」のことも、「地域」のことも知らないのだと気付いたら、

 逆に楽しみが膨らみ、そして広がるのだと思います。
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Why Fruity Aroma of Sake from Rice? [農村だより2011]

December 1. 2011 Thursday

A fruity aroma can be noted from sake brewed with

rice, particularly "Ginjo," "Junmaiginjo," a specific

class sake. Since the addition of flavoring agents

is prohibited, the fruity aroma note is not from any

additive. When "Ginjo," "Junmaiginjo," is analyzed,

organic esters like isoamyl acetic acid or capronic

acid ester are detected. These compounds are

aroma substances often found in fruits like bananas

or pears. Why is a fruity aroma noted in sake though

rice is a major ingredient of sake and no fruit is used?

Where does it come from?

Current research has revealed yeast forms aroma

compounds from amino acids or fatty acids in

fermentation. The low-temperature, long-duration

fermentation is characteristic for brewing "Ginjo,"

"Junmaiginjo," with highly polished rice. It is scientifically

proven that the "Ginjo," "Junmaiginjo," fermentation

conditions are the basis for aroma formation by sake

yeast. "Master Sake Brewers," or "Toji," know from

experience how to produce sake with high aroma

notes. Recently, these are many yeast strain

improvement projects to produce a gorgeous fruity

aroma. Such new types of yeast will contribute to

the diversification or characterization of sake with

a unique aroma profile.
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Brewing Process [農村だより2011]

November 30, Wednesday 2011

In order to brew good sake without foreign taste, protein,

lipid or minerals on the outer layer of brown rice must be

removed in polishing. Polished white rice is soaked to

absorb water, and then cooked to steamed rice. A part

of steamed rice is used for "Koji" fungal preparation,

which is mixed again with steamed rice, water and yeast

to make the mother yeast starter. Then the steamed

rice, "Koji" preparation and mother yeast starter are mixed

in water to make "Fermenting-Mash," or "Moromi," where

fermentation starts. All these ingredients are not put in a

tank at once, but in three steps. This is an innovation

called three-step brewing developed through experience

for a good start and proceeding of fermentation. When

alcohol content in the fermenting-mash reaches about

18 percent to 20 percent, fermentation ceases because

of suppression of this high alcohol content on yeast

function. The fermenting-mash is then separated by

pressing into young sake and sake lees (residue) or

"Sakekasu." The young sake is placed in a tank for

clarification through sedimentation. Clear sake in

supernatant is racked, which is further subjected to

filtration and/or adjustment. It is then heat-treated

for pasteurization. Sake is often stored or aged for

several months or longer, which may occasionally be

conditioned with water and then bottled for shipping.
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What is Sake? [農村だより2011]

November 26. 2011 Saturday

Sake is mysterious alcoholic beverage from the country

of rice, Japan ---a place familiar because of its industrial

products but less so products based on its culture. Sake

was introduced to foreigners when Japan opened up to

Western civilization in the late 19th century. Sake practically

became a more familiar alcoholic beverage along with

Japanese food for ordinary foreigers after World War II in

1945. Nowadays Japanese food is being integrated into

Western diets for its exotic taste and healthy nature.

Sake is a must for authenticity of Japanese "food culture"

all over the would.

Sake is a naturally brewed alcoholic beverage like beer

or wine but is made from rice. Sake is often called rice

wine because of its similarity to wine in terms of

appearance and character. Its origins go back thousands

of years. Sake has undergone many innovations and the

current style of sake brewing started around a thousand

years ago. This brewing process is unique because rice

must be converted to fermentable sugar, which can be

fermented by yeast. While beer goes through two

separate processes, sake undergoes one combined

process for rice starch conversion and fermentation at

the same time. The unique simultaneous process results

in one of the highest alcohol contents for naturally brewed

alcoholic beverages.

Sake has a well-balanced sweet and complex taste

while beer and wine have strong, representative profiles

such as bitterness and fruity flavor-acid taste, respectively.

Sake can be consumed warm or cold and straight, or with

diversified foods because of its character. This is how sake

has contributed to the delicate Japanese food culture that

has been nurtured in an affluent nature with four distinct

seasons and by people with sophisticated taste buds.

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Niigata Sake Characteristics [農村だより2011]

November 19, 2011 Saturday

"Clean-smooth- gracious" Niigata Sake

A majority of sake tasted sweet until

about thirty years ago. It was so-

called rich-bodied, thick sake giving

great satisfaction to sake drinkers at

that time. As dietary life has become

affluent and diversified, however,

people tend to choose sake for pairing

with food. In order to cope with the

change in consumer taste, the Niigata

sake industry tried to identify new

sake characteristics. It has found that

sake with a clean aftertaste, so-called

" 'clean-smooth-gracious' Sake"

synergistically enhances the savory

taste of food in pairing. It has also

learned that climate, rice and water

in Niigata perfect brewing such a sake.

It has concluded that sake brewed

with favorable condition such as a

winter climate, a major sake rice vari-

ety like "Gohyakumangoku" and soft

water has an objective, "clean-

smooth-gracious" taste. Thus Niigata

sake is characterized by "clean-

smooth-gracious" taste, and without

any foreign, objectionable off-taste. It

was the birth of Niigata sake. Niigata

sake has become available in domes-

tic and overseas markets, and is

appreciated by sake lovers.
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Sake Brewing [農村だより2011]

November 18, 2011 Friday

Soft Water in Niigata

Water dissolves various substances. Water can be classified

by the degree of hardness that is measured by the amount of

minerals dissolved, particulary calcium and magnesium. Water

with a higher hardness degree or higher mineral content is

called hard water while water with a lower hardness or lower

mineral content is soft water. Minerals in water exist as ions

like calcium ions or magnesium ions through electrolytic

dissociation.

Rain or snow is the downfall cluster of evaporated moisture

from the ground, which contains nothing but water (H2O) in

the begining. Rain and snow once fallen on or underground

dissolves various substances. When abundant amounts of

calcium or magnesium are present in some stratum or

ground layer, rain or melted snow water dissolves minerals

in passing through such a place or staying in such a place.

For example, river water or groundwater in limestone stratum

becomes hard water since limestone stratum contains plenty

of calcium. On the other hand, brook water or spring water

near the top of hills may be low in minerals. Since some

calcium or magnesium exists in most stratum, underground

water contains ions of calcium and magnesium to some

extent. The longer underground water stays or flows, the

higher its degree of hardness becomes. Most regions in

Japan have relatively high rainfall but most water does not

stay long in a river or on the ground due to short river lengths

and steep grades. There is high rainfall in areas along the

Sea of Japan like Niigata, river or groundwater in this area

tends to have a low hardness. Niigata does not have much

stratum with high calcium or magnesium except for limited

areas. Since river or underground water has low ion content

of calcium or magnesium, which constitutes soft water.
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Koshitanrei [農村だより2011]

15 November 2011 Tuesday

Sake rice variety "Koshitanrei"

It was successfully cross-bred variety between "yamadanishiki"

(female) and "Gohyakumangoku" (male) in cooperation with the

Niigata Prefecture Agriculture Research Institute, the Niigata

Prefectural Sake Research Institute and the Niigata Sake Brewers

Association through a 15-year breeding project. It was named

by then Niigata Prefecture Gov. Ikuo Hirayama in 2004. It has

met the objectives of developing a drastic, new variety suitable

for growing in Niigata and readily brewing a specific class sake,

"Daiginjo." It has also satisfied other objectives for further

expanding demand for Niigata sake rice with 100 percent use

of Niigata sake rice and stabilizing the solid foundation of the

Niigata sake heartland.

Use of this new variety started in the 2006 sake brewing

season. This sake rice variety has characteristics of less

kernel crack-down in polishing, good steamed rice preperation

due to higher water absorption, anticipated good dissolving

in fermentation-mashing, clean aftertaste due to less protein

content, and producing an entirely rich-bodied sake taste.

A test brew with this variety was well appreciated for

representing the characters of "clean aftertaste" of

"Gohyakumangoku" and "rich body" of "Yamadanishiki."

Thus diversification of Niigata sake is anticipated through

the availability of this variety. The Niigata Sake Brewers

Association proudly presents this sake rice variety as

a premium sake rice along with "Gohyakumangoku."
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Gohyakumangoku [農村だより2011]

14 November 2011 Monday

Sake rice variety "Gohyakumangoku"

This variety was developed at the Niigata Agriculture Research Institute

in 1957. It is one of the sake rice varieties representing Niigata today.

It was named after a bumper crop of more than 5 million "Koku" ( a

Japanese volume unit, equivalent to 180 liters ) in that year. It was

disignated as a premium variety to encourage it to be grown and brewed

in 1973. This variety has unique, superior characteristics such as easy

"Koji" preparing and adequate dissolving in the fermenting-mash, or

"Moromi." It yields sake with a not heavy, refreshing, clean and

smooth character, and a mellow taste even in dry sake.

Since 1975, a table rice variety "Koshihikari" has gained great popularity

among consumers as well as its farmers. As a result, farmers have lost

interest in a premium sake rice variety "Gohyakumangoku," causing

concerns in the sake industry over stable supplies of sake rice. Then

the Niigata Sake Brewers Association tried to assure sake rice supply

by agglomerating farmlands or providing subsidies secure supplies in

cooperation with the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative

Associations. This variety is ranked the No.1 sake rice with more than

90 percent of sake rice planting in Niigata. It is also grown in other

areas such as Fukui, Toyama, Hyogo and Ishikawa prefectures,

representing the major sake rice along with another sake rice variety,

"Yamadanishiki."


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