Cold air blowing down from the Japan Alps. Clear water from rivers of melted snow. Fresh country air. Great rice. When it comes to the basic requirements for brewing good sake, Nagano Prefecture has them all covered.

And it shows in the quality of the sake. Overall, gentle and very easy to drink, fine Nagano sake can also be delicate, complex and fruity. Over the last few years, the general style seems to have moved from mellow to light. Its reputation and market presence are acknowledged all over Japan, both in standard sake and in tasting competitions.

There are about 100 breweries in Nagano, but despite that very high number, the prefecture is eighth on the list in terms of volume produced. The reason lies in the size of the prefecture and its geography. While many of these breweries are located around the three towns of Suwa, Saku and Azumino, sake breweries dot the Nagano countryside everywhere. This creates a very strong local market, but also gives rise to the strange situation in which sake from small breweries are not available even in other parts of the same prefecture.