What Makes Sake So Delicious in Snow Country Niigata?

Snow culture (EN)

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Niigata Prefecture, with its heavy snowfall, is famous for its sake, and sake from Niigata is enjoyed all over Japan.

Why is it famous for sake? The secret lies in the snow.


Water is the essence of sake

The main ingredients of sake are rice, rice malt, and water. Of these main ingredients, water accounts for about 80%.

The taste of the rice also depends on the water. It is clear that the quality of water is very important for sake.


Abundant snowmelt water produced in a snowy region

Pictures of Hakkaisan in Niigata, Japan, during the winter. An abundance of snow melts in the spring and pours into the river.
Pictures of Hakkaisan in Niigata, Japan, during the winter. An abundance of snow melts in the spring and pours into the river. 冬季の八海山 - Kshkr from Wikipedia CC 表示-継承 4.0

In Niigata Prefecture, a region with heavy snowfall, a lot of snow melt water is produced in spring and flows into rivers.

This melted snow water becomes "soft water" and gives Niigata sake its unique taste.


Hard Water vs Soft Water

There are two types of water: soft water and hard water.

The difference is simply how much calcium and magnesium is in the water, and whether it is hard water or soft water.

Here's definition of soft water and hard water according to WHO.

Hardness is most commonly expressed as milligrams of calcium carbonate equivalent per litre. Water containing calcium carbonate at concentrations below 60 mg/l is generally considered as soft; 60–120 mg/l,
moderately hard; 120–180 mg/l, hard; and more than 180 mg/l, very hard

Hardness in Drinking-water Background document for development of WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality


Definition of hard water and soft water
Hardness is most commonly expressed as milligrams of calcium carbonate equivalent per litre. Water containing calcium carbonate at concentrations below 60 mg/l is generally considered as soft; 60–120 mg/l,
moderately hard; 120–180 mg/l, hard; and more than 180 mg/l, very hard according to WHO


Soft Water and Sake

zyozen mizuno gotosi / 上善如水
Photo by Kouji Tsuru on Unsplash

As defined, soft water is characterized by low mineral content, including calcium. Many of the sake breweries in Niigata use soft water.

In this way, Niigata has produced a lot of delicious sake thanks to soft water, and this is also thanks to the snow.


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