Good sake doesn't spoil at the speedy rate of wine or beer once it's open.
So I never hesitate to spend a little more on a really good bottle labeled either "junmai" or "junmai daiginjo," official quality designations that refer to the degree to which the rice is polished before being brewed. This Shirataki "Sara Wind" is a junmai sake that's currently available in local state stores and online that is an ideal companion for your next visit to a Japanese BYOB (Bluefin or Yanako, for instance.) Yes, the printed-cloth bag and dimpled sip glass packaging are catchy.
But this sake, from a 157-year-old brewery in Niigata prefecture, is also a perfect example of a sake defined as "light and smooth" that's also subtly complex. Drier than many of the rich sakes that have wooed American drinkers, this brew smells like pear and vanilla on the nose. But a hint of nutty richness on the palate quickly dries into something more interesting - a finish that's almost salty with a light smoke, reminiscent of bamboo, bonito, and fermented rice.
- Craig LaBan
Shirataki Sara Wind Junmai Sake (code 10957), $25.99 for 500 ml bottle, in select Pennsylvania state stores, and online at www.finewineandgoodspirits.com