The Ozeki sake brewery is one of the powerhouses of the sake industry, producing a wide range of memorable nihonshu. Founded in 1711 and based in Nada, the brewery has made a name for itself with several innovations, like the famous one cup sake produced during the 1964 Olympics in Japan.
That spirit of innovation can be felt throughout all the Ozeki products and a bottle I enjoyed tasting recently was Ozeki Hana Awaka. With an elegant, unexpected flavour profile, this sparkling sake has plenty going on.
The Ozeki brand is named after the second highest rank in the sumo wrestling class, reflecting the brewery’s desire to never be complacent. An ozeki is always striving to be better, to push the boundaries and get to a higher level. It’s an attitude the brewery embodies with all its products and its approach to the world around it.
As the brewery was founded in Imazu, the kuramato (owners) of Ozeki have always felt a connection to the region and a desire to improve the well-being of the local people.
An example occurred in 1810, when the fifth-generation owner built a lighthouse on the coast to help guide returning ships that had delivered sake to Edo. Today, the Imazu Lighthouse is an important cultural landmark that speaks of the history of the region.
Ozeki transfers the same level of attention and care into the production of their Hana Awaka sake. Translating to ‘sparkling flower,’ Hana Awaka is a low ABV sparking sake that weighs in at a light 7%. It comes in a vibrant pink bottle decorated with flowers that invites you to pop open the top and enjoy what’s inside.
This sake is the kind of drink that went against all of my expectations. On the bottle, the Sake Meter Value (SMV) states that it’s -60, which would suggest a high level of sweetness. But that wasn’t the case for me and lends credence to the fact that SMV shouldn’t be taken as the dominant indicator of what the sake is going to taste like.
A perfumy, peach smell came from the glass and mingled with hints of lychee. The first sip was dryer and crisper than I anticipated. Any sweetness was muted, perhaps because I’d decided to drink it chilled. The peach flavours became stronger and were balanced by a lovely, bubblegum fizz. I can’t help but make the comparison to champagne or a very light prosecco.
After letting the Hana Awaka reach room temperature, I noticed subtle changes. The sweetness became more prominent and came with an underlying lemon tang. There was also hints of rice, bread and cream. Serve it chilled or at room temperature and compare the results.
Hana Awaka is a delightful, fruity sake that is sure to please prosecco and white wine fans. It’s refreshing, crisp, well-balanced and goes down easily. Too easily.
Grade: Junmai sparkling
Seimaibuai/Rice Polishing Rate: Unspecified
Another sparkling sake worth trying is Mio. Check out Yamato Magazine’s review and let me know what you think of sparkling sake in general!