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The Kobe Shinbun newspaper reports on Hyogo Sake 85, a new sake brewed from a new variety of sake-specific rice. It’s the first new variety to be developed in the prefecture in 10 years, and the junmai ginjo produced by the Yamana brewery in Itami went on sale 1 June 2018.

The bottles closely resemble wine bottles, and the sake is said to have plenty of aroma, a short sharp finish and pleasant mouthfeel.

Hyogo Prefecture has its sights firmly set on overseas markets and is expecting great things from this new rice variety, which was developed to adapt Yamada Nishiki for colder regions. It is highly resistant to rice blast, a parasitic fungal disease that can affect sake-specific rice, and also has a large shinpaku – the white starch core beloved of the kōji fungus that converts the starch into sugar for yeast to then turn into alcohol.

The large shinpaku means that even at relatively high polishing ratios the rice produces very little in the way of undesirable flavours, making it easy to brew with. The variety was given an English name to assist in the prefecture’s attempts to stimulate overseas demand, and the Yamana and Tajima breweries have been working with it since August 2017. The new sake was presented at an exhibition in Hong Kong.

This Yamana brewery is no stranger to being first to tackle a new prefectural sake-specific rice variety. This time they asked local farmers to grow the rice and started trial cultivation in 2016. The rice was grown commercially in 2017, producing 1.8 tons at harvest. Brewers have to experiment with any new variety to find the right processing and fermentation methods, so they figured out variables like how long to soak the rice as they went.

The design of the 720 ml bottle purposefully resembles a wine bottle as a strategy for the overseas market, but the gentle aroma and and dry flavour are in line with the brewery’s regular offerings. Owner Jungo Yamana says he wants local people to try it out first. There are only 1,500 780 ml bottles costing JPY 1,728 each, and only 700 1.8 L bottles for JPY 3,456.