Nestled along the west coast of Japan’s main island, Niigata Prefecture is known for both its prowess in industry and as an ecological paradise. The region supports the largest number of sake manufacturers of any prefecture in Japan and is blessed with a rich, natural environment boasting the second largest area of natural parks in the country. In no other product can this combination of craftsmanship and nature find a more perfect expression than in the region’s sake. Brew masters from the famous Echigo Toji guild utilize their surrounding resources to create artisanal, high-quality sakes enjoyed around the world. Boasting more than 90 breweries, the Niigata region has earned its title as the “Sake Kingdom of Japan.”
The source of Niigata’s handcrafted, world-class sakes is attributed to the region’s annual snowfall. Winter months bring damp breezes off the Sea of Japan that collide with the Hida Mountain Range, resulting in a massive amount of snowfall: sometimes exceeding 30 feet annually. Spring’s snowmelt creates ideal conditions for rice cultivation, while providing incredibly clean, pure water for the brewing process.
Niigata’s sake breweries remain on the cusp of technological innovation, with brewing techniques ever evolving to achieve newly distinct and complex flavors. Combining the natural bounty of the region, a higher polishing ratio of the rice grains and traditional craftsmanship, results in what is known as the “Niigata Taste” – crisp, light, subtle.
Niigata breweries rank third in overall sake production in Japan but first in the production of premium sakes (ginjo and daiginjo). The region is also home to Japan’s only Prefectural Sake Research Institute, an organization dedicated to improving the brewing techniques and products of Niigata sake.
Each region in the Niigata prefecture features its own sake brewing methods, flavors, and ingredients passed down from generation to generation by each toji, or lead brewer. The Niigata Taste has steadily become an international favorite among connoisseurs and general consumers alike.