It first touches on the fall in consumption of sake and the reasons why: an ageing society with fewer children, people turning away from alcohol for health reasons and the rise of low-alcohol drinks.
This has led to brewers changing the way they sell too – one new development is selling sake at supermarkets along with a recipe card and some ingredients. Hakutsuru launched two new sake in February 2018 under the banner Nihonshu de Mariage, or “pair with sake“. One is a floral sake designed to go with light dishes, and the other a full-bodied sake with umami designed to go with rich dishes.
Both are sold in 300 ml waxed cardboard cartons with screw-top openings, like a small carton of milk or juice.
The “light” one is a daiginjō blend to go with sashimi, sushi, chilled tofu, fried tofu, chicken salad, egg dishes, stir-fried vegetables, vinegared dishes, grilled or steamed fish or other lightly flavoured dishes. The recommendation is to serve it chilled and enjoy with everyday meals.
The “rich” version is also a blend, using a secret brewery sake aged for 20 years. They recommend it with shallow and deep fried dishes, gyoza, okonomiyaki, grilled eel, yakiniku, yakitori, anything with a demi-glaze or cream sauce, or cheese.
Interesting that there are products (from one of the largest breweries, who can afford to experiment) aimed so squarely at pairing – they must see it as a barrier for consumers who don’t know what sake to pick, or who shop in supermarkets or other places where they won’t get advice.
The blending idea is an interesting one as well. I’ve seen a Kizakura sake here in Switzerland that’s blended with aged sake (Tsu no Honjōzō) – it was quite pleasant and much nicer than the junmai in the same format/at the same shop. There wasn’t much information on the blend, other than it was a honjōzō mixed with an aged ginjō.