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  • Writer's pictureMonsieur Saké

The importance of water

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

Without water there is no life and sake is made from rice, koji and yeast which are living organisms.

Ready to drink, sake is made with at least 80% water. It is its main ingredient, it undeniably influences the taste. In the final stages of sake making, water is even added to adjust the taste. Not to mention that water is also used for cleaning, soaking and steaming rice, for cleaning utensils and facilities. The taste of water leaves its mark.

Among the many uses of water is that of Shikomimizu 仕込み水, the water that is added to sake.

As proof of the excellence of this water, brewers often bring one or two bottles to share during tastings.

Aoki Shuzo, Niigata
Kakurei's Shikomimizu presented for tasting.

We deduce that a generous source of healthy and delicious water is the prerequisite for the presence of shuzo in a given place.

The quality of certain sources makes the reputation of a region’s sake.

In Japan, most of the land is in the mountains and the sources of water are endless. Some are better than others. For example, the Nada spring in Kobe in Hyogo and the Fushimi spring in Kyoto have long had an excellent reputation..

It is that the water from the generous rainfalls is filtered by the dense vegetation of its forests and volcanic soils. Because it most often flows over granite beds crossed by crystalline rock holding alkali feldspar, it contains almost no iron and very little calcium. This is the perfect water for making sake.

In some regions, the abundant presence of very high quality water allows their sake production to flourish and stand out. In addition to Hyogo and Kyoto already mentioned, we must highlight those of Niigata and Hiroshima.

Some prefectures, and even some breweries, associate the quality of their water with their brand image. The other ingredients can be imported, but water is the quintessential local product.

Kawachu shuzo, Niigata,
At Kawachu shuzo in Niigata, a janomechoko with water from their source (liquid and in the form of ice cubes) to quench your thirst and rinse your mouth when tasting their sakes.

The taste of water is the zero taste of those who brew the sake. Shuzo water is the water with which the kurabito make ice, with which they prepare broths and their food, with which they quench their thirst. From the taste of this water, they judge that of other things, that they establish the peculiarities of this sake or another.

Some people will argue that if there is a terroir for sake, it is determined by water. Each of the breweries scattered throughout Japan has a local water source with its unique taste.

Without water, there is no life; it is the basis of an ecosystem in which there are among others, farmers, rice, yeasts, koji and kurabito.


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