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5 great sparkling sake for the festive season!

Following my article about sparkling sake, I decided to follow it with 5 quick recommendations for sparkling sake available outside Japan.

Shirakabegura MIO Sparkling Sake

And I start with the most affordable and very popular MIO sake from Shirakabegura brewery from Hyogo prefecture. The name, MIO, refers to the foam that gently emerges in the wake of a ship reflected in the blue and white bottle. Using only rice, water, koji and yeast, MIO is technically a junmai sake made without adding any sweeteners and acids.

Shirakabegura MIO sparkling sake
Shirakabegura MIO sparkling sake

It’s a very light sake with an ABV of only 5%. It has a simple but pleasant slightly perfumy aroma with light apple and ripe pear notes and some presence of alcohol. MIO is made using the carbonation method when CO2 is pumped into the sake that has been already brewed. As a result, you have quite strong bubbles which however disappear if you leave the sake in a glass for some time.

Shirakabegura MIO has quite a high acidity of 4.0 (compared to the usual 1.2-1.4 in sake) and a very high SMV value of -70. So it has a sweet but tangy taste and feels very refreshing. Overall, the taste is not particularly complex and the finish is quick.

MIO is the cheapest of the 5 five sake on my list and comes in two bottle sizes: 150ml and 300ml. It’s great as an aperitif or a party drink in any season from Xmas/New Year festivities to a hot afternoon in summer. You can drink it with nibbles, cheese or even a dessert given its very sweet taste profile. It’s available in many places including your local Sainsbury’s, Japan Center, London Sake among others.

Where to buy

Price

GBP 4.75 (150ml)

AWA Sparkling Sake Company

AWA Sparkling Sake Brewery
AWA Sparkling Sake

Cambridgeshire-based The Sparkling Sake Brewing Company was only set up in 2021 and released its first sake this summer. It’s now one of the three sake breweries in the UK.

Meaning foam or bubbles in Japanese, AWA is the brewery’s first and currently the only product. You can read the story about its creation and the philosophy behind the product on their website.

The brewery uses the secondary fermentation in a bottle or champagne method. The master brewer has also increased the ratio of koji rice from the usual 25% to 50% to achieve the desired taste and bubbliness.

When you first open a bottle, be careful. AWA could be a bit too energetic and escape the bottle happy to be free. As you pour it into your glass you can see that the sake is slightly cloudy with some rice particles remaining from the fermentation process and has a warm yellow tint.

The aroma is fresh and delicate with notes of grapefruit, yoghurt, and a bit of rice. AWA is gently effervescent, crisp and dry with a mild citrusy flavour, a bit of honey, and a quick bitter finish. The bitterness in the finish actually gives your palate a pleasant kick. AWA’s ABV is 12% which is usual for sparkling sake.

Serve AWA chilled and in a champagne glass. It’s great on its own or with light dishes like salad, grilled white fish or veggies, cheese or sushi. The bottle is small, only 375ml, so you will probably finish it in one sitting. If you re-storage it, you will probably lose all the bubbles. Mind, that AWA is the most expensive sake per 100ml on the list. But it’s worth every penny!

Where to buy

Price

GBP 29.99 (375ml)

Masumi “Origarami” Sparkling Sake

masumi origarami sparkling sake
Masumi “Origarami” Sparkling Sake

Made by the iconic Miyasaka brewery from Nagano, the Masumi brand is very well-known outside Japan. Not least thanks to Keith Norum, a charismatic head of international business at the brewery for many years. The brewery makes such beautiful sake as Masumi Okuden, Masumi Arabashiri and Masumi Sanka.

Masumi Origarami is a slightly cloudy naturally sparkling sake made by secondary fermentation in the bottle. The brewery refers to the method as similar to petillant naturel wines or this pet-nat, as no sugar or other additives are used. Origarami means on-the-lees, as Masimi Sparkling sake is sold unfiltered and you can see the remains of rice particles in the bottle.

Masumi Sparkling sake has a delicate grapefruit and pear aroma with some herbal notes. It’s a savoury and dry sake with crisp bubbles and wine-like acidity. You might notice some yoghurt notes in the taste when you first try it. While it’s dry, the sake gets slightly sweeter as it gets warmer in a glass. It has a long and slightly bitter finish which goes very well with food.

As it has a lot of umami, you can pair Masumi Sparkling sake with a wide variety of dishes: from light and savory starters and nibbles to rich and hefty meat, poultry, fish and vegetables. It’s probably the most food friendly sake on teh list.

Where to buy

Price

GBP 48.99 (750ml)

Keigetsu John Junmai Daiginjo Sparkling

I have known John for some time already. It was the first sparkling sake I have ever tried and I wrote it in my early post about Keigetsu and Tosatsuru sake tasting back in 2018. I also met Matsumoto san, the brewery president, who happily told a story of how Keigetsu John came into existence. His friend, whose name was John, was complaining for years, that Keigetsu doesn’t make sparkling dry sake. At some point, Matsumoto san gave in and developed such sake which he called after his friend.

Keigetsu Sparkling Sake John
Keigetsu John

The Tosa Sake Brewing Company, which produces sake under the Keigetsu brand, is located in Kochi prefecture in South Japan. Tosa is an old name for the province and Keigetsu literally means “the moon over Kei shore” referring to the beautiful scenery of the local coast, where Keigetsu John is made.

Keigetsu John is made by injecting CO2 into a junmai daiginjo sake made from the local Gin no Yume rice. The method produces crystal clear sake with very consistent bubbles. The sake has a lovely fruity aroma dominated by green apples with hints of melon and strawberry and with delicate rice and herbal notes.

Keigetsu John is off-dry, slightly sweeter than most of the sake on this list apart from MIO, which is even sweeter. It has very soft and smooth texture and fine bubbles making it a pleasure to drink. The bottle ha a resealable cap, which is very handy if you don’t want to lose the bubbles. It comes in two sizes: a standard 750ml and a small 375ml.

In terms of food pairing, Keigetsu John is very versatile. It’s great to sip on its own but also with a variety of savoury nibbles and light foods, such as canapes, salads, white fish, charcuterie, cheese and other similar types of dishes.

Where to buy

Price

GBP 26.50 (375ml)

Mutsu Hassen 8000 Brut Nature

Mutsu Hassen 8000 Brut Nature
Mutsu Hassen 8000 Brut Nature

The last sake on my recommendation list is Mutsu Hassen 8000 Brut Nature from Hachinohe brewery in Aomori prefecture in Northern Japan. The brewery has more than 200 years of history and two main brands names, Mutsu Hassen and Mutsu Otokoyama. Mutsu refers to a historical name of the province, where the brewery is located.

“Hassen” is a wordplay. It means Eight (Drunken) Immortals (八仙) but also could mean 8000 (八千). That’s why the brand has the number 8000 in the name as well. There is a very interesting episode of the Sake Revolution podcast about the brewery and the brand.

Mutsu Hassen 8000 Brut Nature is also made by secondary fermentation in a bottle from junmai sake. The brewery specifically wanted to make dry sake which could be enjoyed both on its own and with food. They have definitely succeeded.

The sake has a very gentle aroma with grapefruit notes. The bubbles are fine and creamy but still strong adding to a nice mouthful texture of Mutsu Hassen. It’s a dry and very classy sake on par with the finest champagne brands. Mutsu Hassen 8000 Brut Nature has a long finish with present bitterness at the end.

As for food pairing, Mutsu Hassen sparkling sake is perfect on its own. But as with good champagne, you might enjoy it with various light and creamy dishes on your festive table: salads, grilled seafood, risotto or pasta with a rich white source or even with chocolate or desserts. The dryness of the sake plays nicely with the sweetness of the food.

Mutsu Hassen 8000 Brut Nature comes in a lavish champagne bottle in a stylish cardboard case making it a perfect gift to bring to someone’s New Year party or any celebration.

Where to buy

Price

GBP 59.90 (750ml)


Ending

I think that the selection of sparkling sake has massively improved in recent years. You can choose between sweeter and drier variants, have more affordable or luxury brands and enjoy sparkling sake on its own or with a variety of dishes. Spark your New Year party with something different and have a bottle of sparkling sake!

Kampai!

Alex

Alex is a London-based sake blogger, podcaster, IWC Sake judge and sake advocate. He is a publisher of the Sugidama Blog website and a host of the Sugidama Podcast. Alex has an International Kikisake-shi (Sake Specialist) qualification from SSI (Sake Service Institute). He sees his mission as expanding the awareness of Japanese sake among as many people as possible and helping the growing community of sake lovers to bring together beautiful Japanese sake and non-Japanese food as a way to build a better understanding between our cultures.

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