Is there natural sake?

Answered by Michael Wilson

There is natural sake. Natural sake, similar to natural wines, is made with a focus on using raw ingredients cultivated without the use of chemicals. The rice used to make natural sake is typically grown organically, without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. This ensures that the rice is free from any residue or traces of chemicals, resulting in a more natural and pure product.

In addition to using organic rice, natural sake also avoids the use of additives such as brewer’s alcohol. Brewer’s alcohol is often added to sake during the brewing process to extract flavors and adjust the alcohol content. However, in natural sake, the focus is on allowing the flavors of the rice and fermentation process to shine through without any interference or manipulation. By omitting the use of brewer’s alcohol, natural sake retains a more authentic and unadulterated taste.

Furthermore, natural sake is often produced using traditional methods that prioritize minimal intervention. This means that the sake is typically unpasteurized, unfiltered, and undiluted. Pasturization is a process that involves heating the sake to kill off any bacteria or enzymes, which can affect the flavor and aroma. However, in natural sake, the omission of pasteurization allows for the preservation of delicate flavors and aromas that would otherwise be lost. Unfiltered sake, or nigori sake, contains sediment and particles from the rice, giving it a cloudy appearance and a richer, more textured mouthfeel. Similarly, undiluted sake, also known as genshu, is not diluted with water to adjust the alcohol content, resulting in a more robust and intense flavor profile.

The concept of natural sake aligns with the principles of the natural wine movement, which seeks to produce wines with minimal intervention and a focus on expressing the unique characteristics of the grapes and terroir. Similarly, natural sake aims to showcase the natural flavors and qualities of the rice and fermentation process, without the use of chemicals or additives. This approach appeals to those seeking a more authentic and artisanal experience when it comes to sake.

Personally, I have had the opportunity to taste some natural sakes, and I found them to be incredibly interesting and complex. The flavors were more nuanced and layered compared to conventional sakes, with a distinct earthiness and umami notes. The lack of filtration and pasteurization also added a textural element that made the sake feel more alive and vibrant on the palate. It was a truly unique and enjoyable experience that highlighted the craftsmanship and dedication of the producers.

Natural sake does exist and is made with a commitment to using organic ingredients, avoiding additives, and embracing minimal intervention techniques. This results in a sake that is more true to its natural origins, with unique flavors and characteristics that showcase the rice and fermentation process.