“Puchi Puchi” could be the new New Year drink. Bottle-fermented sparkling sake “Awasake,” or foam sake, is already winning awards.

In Tokyo’s recent International SAKE Challenge, the Dewazakura Sake Brewery’s sparkling sake in Zendo City in Japan’s   Yamagata Prefecture won first prize.

The brewery opened in 1892, and its “Ichiro” and “Dewanosato” sakes are well-known. At 13 %, the sparkling sake is highly fruity with grape aromas and a creamy mousse. Perfect for toasts and to complement spicy food like Thai green curry. The brewery also makes sparkling cloudy Tobiroku.

Awasake sake

There is no sugar or distilled alcohol added to make sparkling sake. The bubbles are formed with carbon dioxide, which derives from the natural fermentation during brewing. Awasake must be made by a second fermentation and not by carbonation.

The technique’s development to make bottle-fermented sparkling sake was pioneered by Noriyoshi Nagai, of Nagai Sake in Gunma. Mr. Nagai first started experimenting with bottle-fermented sparkling sake in 2003. In 2016, nine sake breweries came together to create the Awasake Association. Now there are nearly thirty members.

Awasake Sake rose

The styles and quality of Awasake range from delicate Brut Nature with ginjo character to full-bodied, rich demi-sec. Some are floral, and others savory.

Good examples of the increasing range of Japanese effervescent sake are Mutsu Hassen Dry Sparkling from the  Hachinohe Sake Brewery, Aomori,  Nambu-Bijin in Iwate, Fukushima Ninki-Ichi, Nagai’s  Mizubasho Yuki-Hotaka, Bon ( Born), Flower Snow,  the cherry blossom,  Hitosuji Rosé from Takizawa Shuzo ( the color derives from the red yeast used during fermentation, Mashumi from the Miyasaka Jozo Sake Brewery, Nagano,  and Tenzan.

The Awasake Association approves each sake with its hologram seal of authentication.  Which has been created from only rice, rice mold, and water, 100% domestically grown rice, its outward appearance is clearly transparent, and bubbles form after it is uncorked and poured, and its alcohol content is 10% or more.  The megapascals or gas pressure are all in the tasting.

Like Champagne, size matters with sparkling sake. The smaller the bubbles (“Puchi Puchi”), the fewer the impurities and the higher the quality.