Aichi Prefecture has officially launched sales of Yume-ginga, a type of brewer’s rice used to make high-quality sake.
After two years of experimenting with its cultivation, 10 hectares of the rice were planted this year, with plans to expand to 100 hectares over the next few years.
Despite being ranked fifth in terms of production volume, Aichi Prefecture remains relatively unknown as a major sake producer.
Yume-ginga’s three kanji suggest a state of being induced into a dream world by the fragrance of quality sake brewed from the finest rice.
On April 2, a tasting session was organized by the prefecture’s brewery association in Nishi Ward, Nagoya.
Around 100 people from related industries attended the session to try sake produced by 19 local breweries.
The judges declared Hoshi-izumi, which uses 100 percent test-grown Yume-ginga produced by the Maruichi brewery, the best of the 48 brands tasted at the session.
“It has a firm taste with a clear aftertaste,” said one of the judges.
“Yume-ginga has an excellent taste and is easy to work with. It has great potential,” said Shinichi Kimura, a 37-year-old “toji,” or master brewer, at Maruichi.
Kimura said 400 bottles of Hoshi-izumi, each retailing for ¥4,600 excluding tax, quickly sold out.
Yume-ginga was first developed in 2001. At that time, the primary rice used for brewing sake in Aichi was Wakamizu. This particular variety is resistant to rain and wind, but has a white core that is too big to be considered ideal for sake brewing.
In order to remove other flavors and create quality sake, the kernels are slowly shaved until the rice has been polished clean.
But the core of a rice kernel is usually very delicate, and if it is too big, like Wakamizu, it can break easily in the middle of this process.
The Yume-ginga variety was developed by combining Wakamizu with Yamadanishiki, a popular rice variety from Hyogo Prefecture that is considered the best rice to use for sake brewing and is widely used across Japan.
To develop Yume-ginga, batch after batch was grown, and the kernels with the best flavor and good cores were carefully selected for the next round of cultivation.
It was registered as a rice variety in 2012 and the prefecture recommended it for brewing sake this year.
“The other flavors can be removed easily like Yamadanishiki, but at the same time it can withstand diseases and strong weather,” said one of the staffers involved in developing Yume-ginga.
Due to the decline in sake consumption, only 74 hectares were used to grow brewer’s rice in Aichi in 2012, compared with 289 hectares at its peak in 1995.
Most of the 40 breweries in Aichi that produce high-quality sake use Yamadanishiki, but with Yume-ginga, they can save on transportation costs and sell “locally made” sake to consumers.
Currently, 13 breweries use Yume-ginga, and requests to increase production are constantly being made from others.
The climate and cultivation time affects the crops, which then limits the production volume.
“We have mountains and flat plains in Aichi. It’s important to see whether Yume-ginga can produce consistent cores that are strong and have good flavors here,” said Ko Tanabe, 69, executive director of Aichi Prefecture’s brewery association.
“We need to monitor the sake brewed with this rice as well. I hope one day we can receive the gold award in a national competition with Yume-ginga,” he added.
This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on April 19.