Japan is a country with four distinctly different seasons of spring, summer, fall, and winter referred to as “Shiki.” Sake is said to be in season during the winter to spring, where new kinds are shipped out, but sake has its own Shiki and every season brings a different taste. This time, we’ll be introducing sake and their unique qualities for each part of the year.
Winter is the prime time for making sake and a particular kind that can be enjoyed during this season is shiboritate shinshu( しぼりたて新酒, “freshly pressed sake”). Usually, sake is pasteurized twice before being shipped off. Shiboritate sake is different in that it is shipped off without being pasteurized, skipping the process to help preserve the sake for a longer period of time. They may be sold in stores with names like genshu(原酒) and nama genshu (生原酒). Because of its newness, it has the fruity and fresh true taste of sake. Its alcohol content is usually higher than typical sake because it is shipped off fresh. Shiboritate sake can be enjoyed between December and March. A special kind that is only pressed the morning of the first day of spring is called “risshun asashibori.” (立春朝搾り)
From March to May, breweries sell sake that make people think of spring. This is the season of the new fiscal year in Japan. People celebrate going back to school and starting new jobs. Those kinds of happy moments call for sweet sake, which most are during this season. Japan is notable for its cherry blossoms, so many sake labels are pink.
Cold sake is perfect for summer and breweries know that people feel that way. There is sake made for being enjoyed on the rock, genshu made especially for the summer, and other sake with distinctive characteristics. Labels are blue to give the sake a cool look.
Although sake is said to be in season in the winter, there are also some that are only available in the fall for those who can’t wait for winter. “Hiyaoroshi”(ひやおろし) is one that is sworn by sake lovers.
Sake that is pasteurized only once during the winter to spring is stored in a cool place for them to make it through the hot summers. When the temperatures drop in the fall to the temperatures that the sake should be, they are bottled and shipped off. Hiyaoroshi is one of those, only being pasteurized once, not twice like the usual sake. It should be called “hannama zake” (半生酒) or “half raw” sake, but it most certainly still stays fresh and is easier to preserve than namazake, sake that is not pasteurized at all. Sake that is preserved through the summer is not as sharp and has a mellow taste.
So what did you think? We introduced what sake from each season is like, but remember that every sake is different, even if they have the same name or color. We hope that you can find your favorite sake for each season so that you can enjoy sake all year round!