Sake Rice Genealogy of Yamadanishiki
What has ensued is a glorious life of successes since, Yamada-nishiki became the preferred and prized sake rice of the premium sake brewing industry making up 30 percent of all Tokutei Meishoushu(special designation sake).
Wataribune, the hard-working father of Yamadanishiki was once a more widely used sake rice, known to produce rich and complex brews.
Comparison of Rice Polishing Degree
Unfortunately, he was a little moody and fragile, too tall and top heavy, easily knocked over in extreme weather and typhoons, his growing season a touch longer than everyone else. Ultimately he faded away, his offspring attracting all the limelight, and eventually, he was no longer cultivated.
Takaaki Yamauchi at the brewery
Wataribune’s fate was suddenly changed when a young and ambitious brewer, our very own Huchu Homare Shuzo’s Takaaki Yamauchi, the 6th generation brewer of his family legacy, took over the reigns in the late 1980’s. Being a brewer in an agricultural prefecture like Ibaraki with ideal growing soil, Mt. Tsukuba to the west and Lake Kasumigawa in the east, he pondered why sake rice wasn’t being grown in his prefecture. Being that he was heavily focused on brewing Jizake, or local sake, it just wouldn’t do to be brewing with rice cultivated in other prefectures. Thus he began his quest for a rice which could be cultivated locally and eventually came across the fact that the father of Yamadanishiki, Wataribune, had once grown plentifully in his neck of the woods.
With the help of a former professor of agriculture in Ibaraki, his search for seeds of Wataribune took him across the globe before he finally found a sample which had been preserved at the gene bank of the National Agriculture Institute of Tsukuba in 1989. 14 grams of Wataribune were collected and laboriously sprouted and cultivated over the next two growing years to finally make one small tank of Junmai Daiginjo.
From that point onwards, Wataribune has been making a slow comeback and is now being grown in other prefectures like Shiga and used by a growing group of brewers.
A fun fact about the Wataribune rice strain is that it had actually been successfully cultivated in California in the early 1900’s but eventually lost favour due to its susceptibility to pests and disease. The Calrose variety is a rice with its origins tracing back to Wataribune.
Wataribune is an heirloom sake rice which develops sake with a lovely richness and complexity. Despite its fickleness when it comes to cultivation, it has proven to many brewers such as Mr. Yamauchi of Huchu Homare, that the prized sake possible is well worth the efforts.