Nara, Japan; ABV for sake is typically 14 – 16%; imposing black, triangular bottle
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 3 Aug. Almost certainly also at Berkeley, and probably many other stores.
I was pretty excited to hear that the GO was getting a junmai ginjo (more on that below) sake for a pretty low price for 720ml. However, when I tasted it, I found this to be okay but not especially exciting sake.
So, about the sake terms… “Junmai” means that it’s made from only rice and water. “Honjozo” means that neutral spirits (extra alcohol) were added, which is not the case with “junmai.” “Ginjo” means a good amount of the surface of the grain of rice is polished away, usually resulting in a cleaner taste of the sake. (Sakes that are labeled just “Junmai” are often relatively more funky and acid. The only grade higher than “junmai ginjo” is “junmai daiginjo,” which means that more of the outer part of the rice grain has been polished away.)
The first thing I noticed about this sake is that it’s fairly yellow-colored for a sake, although still more clear than any white wine. The nose is definitely of a nice sake, showing aromatic rice. However, on the palate, after the usual rich rice flavor, the main flavors I get are of mint and yellow peach, and I find the somewhat funky acid more like I would expect from a “junmai” instead of from a “junmai ginjo”. The mint may even be sort of mint-chocolate-chip, which is really not what I associate with sake. It’s pretty tasty sake for the price — for this much Japanese sake one could easily spend $40 — but it’s not as good as the two I reviewed recently, as I guess you would expect from the prices. Also, from the amount available, this sake will likely receive wider distribution than the others. (With this bottle, I also opened the “Lucky Toki,” among the three that appeared with the two reviewed at the link above. I thought it was less good than the two I reviewed, but better than this bottle.)
The next day, I thought it was much the same. For $7 for 720ml, this is fine sake, but nothing to rush out and get, IMO.
I want to add a few words about sake vs. wine. In wine, I usually prize intensity and complexity of flavors, and their elegant delineation. In sake, I usually prize purity and harmony. I am not looking for a lot of “flavors” in sake. Instead, I hope for the direct expression of the white rice and water, although that can take various forms. I haven’t built up my sake vocabulary like I have my wine vocabulary, but I hope this helps somewhat.