One of Nagano Prefecture's profound breweries, Wakabayashi Jozo is home to 5th Generation Master Brewer Mami Wakabayashi; one of about 50 female head brewers in Japan. Founded in 1896, Wakabayashi Brewing has been family-run for over 120 years. Mrs. Wakabayashi is their first female Toji, challenging stereotypes and the status quo to produce a clean and smooth craft sake.
In sake brewing, the Toji or Master Brewer is the chief executive of production. In English, the world Toji roughly translates to “mistress,” "matron," or "housewife." It’s true that in brewing, men have a disproportionate share of voice. But in the beginning, sake was primarily made by women.
And when you make sake, little things matter a lot: what rice you use, what kind of water, how often and at what stages or micro-stages you adjust the temperature. The influence of the Toji is real. Therefore, having a female perspective is significant.
Sake is often characterized by its “umami,” a word rooted in Zen Buddhism that means “beautiful taste.” It refers to savoriness, and is one of the five basic tastes. It is the point at which the flavor of a beverage or food has reached its full potential.
The name Moon Bloom was inspired by the Tale of the Princess Kaguya, also known as the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. One of Japan’s oldest legends, it is the story of a beautiful woman from the moon who one day visits Earth. It’s a story of beauty, exile, belonging and love.
5th Generation Master Brewer Mami Wakabayashi is one of the few female Master Brewers (Toji) in Japan. She produces Moon Bloom in Ueda Nagano in small batches, allowing the rice to be naturally cooled. Low-temperature fermentation permits the yeast time to develop complex aromas, ideal for the subtlety required in sake making. Located in a basin surrounded by mountains, it is a scenic area with many hot springs, temples and shrines. Not only does Nagano provide clean water for brewing, it also creates ideal climatic conditions for rice cultivation, which Wakabayashi uses to her advantage. Moon Bloom uses delicate-tasting Miyamanishiki and Hitogokochi rice locally sourced from Nagano Prefecture.
A Well-Balanced Junmai Ginjo Sake
Moon Bloom is produced only for export to markets outside Japan. The rice is polished down to 59% to produce a clean and balanced Junmai Ginjo sake. Moon Bloom is also a Genshu, which means that it was made without the addition of water during the final step - giving it a richer more rustic flavor. Moon Bloom comes to you much in the state in which it was brewed. Au naturel, if you will.
With a Sake Meter Value (SMV) of 0; Moon Bloom is the perfect balance between sweet and dry, tailored to match a wide range of foods from other cultures. Its delicate enough to pair beautifully with sushi and seafood. But bold enough to take on a mouthwatering cheesy pizza.
Just like wine, Sake is generally served room-temperature, warm, hot or chilled. This often depends on the season, the quality, and the drinkers preference. When we made Moon Bloom, we wanted it to be versatile. Citris and plum dominate at colder temperatures, banana is more pronounced when warmed.
If you do warm it up, Toji Mami Wakabayashi suggests gently warmed to 100 degrees, called Nurukan. Its not as hot as Atsukan which can take away some of the richness and flavor. Its not hot, but you can still feel the warmth of the sake.
"The Moon was but a Chin of Gold — A Night or two ago — And now she turns Her perfect Face — upon the World below"
- Emily Dickinson.