Nothing is more refreshing in Springtime than a chilled glass of Nama saké. We find the freshness perfectly embodies the essence of spring. Though it's available year-round, because this is when the traditional Japanese brewing season ends, every spring delivers a bouquet of various new Nama saké. Although nowadays Nama saké is available year-round thanks to modern brewing technologies, traditionally spring is when the brewing season ends (and still holds true for smaller breweries in Japan); this means sake fans, connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike, enjoy a fresh bouquet of new Nama saké choices each spring.
So, what is Nama sake? “Nama” translates to “fresh” or “raw”. In the context of saké, Nama means "unpasteurized."
Long before Louis Pasteur “invented” pasteurization, Japanese saké brewers were heat-treating their brews to stabilize them and make sure the quality would last longer. Today, saké is typically pasteurized twice; once after filtration and once before bottling. Some high-end saké are bottled between pasteurizations and then pasteurized in the bottle. This step allows saké to be stored for longer periods of time. Without this process, it would quickly change in flavor and density.
Nama being "unpasteurized" means the saké skips the heat treatment process entirely. Unpasteurized saké retains many active enzymes, leading to fresher, fruitier, and bolder flavor.
It is young and can be robust, with contrasting flavors and sharper edges, much like a young wine. Often the fragrance is much more lively and apparent, and there is an unmistakable freshness to the saké overall.
Be careful when storing Nama. At room temperature, it changes rapidly and ends up becoming earthy, overly nutty, with various other undesirable flavors. Like the spring season itself, Nama saké goes quickly: it is best consumed within 6 months of production and will last roughly 2 weeks once opened. There is an ever-rotating Nama on tap in our Oregon Tasting Room. Currently on tap is the Momokawa Silver Nama. Last year we bottled Momokawa #701 Nama Nama to rave reviews. Look forward to more Nama offerings from us in the future!
A true Nama that hasn’t had any pasteurization is also called a “Nama Nama.” This is to differentiate it from the other varieties, Nama Chozo or Nama Zumé; both of which have had a single pasteurization for longer shelf life while still preserving some of the refreshing qualities of a Nama. For those who love the freshness but can’t find a Nama Nama readily available, these are great alternatives. They can be stable for months but are best drunk young. We have a couple wonderful import Nama Chozo offerings: Hakutsuru NamaChozo, Kasumi Tsuru Yamahai Namachozo (limited release).
Do yourself a favor -- Snag a bottle of Nama and “Kanpai” to Spring!
Stay tuned right here every Saké-Sunday for more tips, tricks and lessons to keep you fresh on saké.
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