Riedel is proud to present the Junmai glass, its second glass specifically designed for Japan’s national drink. In contrast to Daiginjo, Junmai boasts a much greater complexity and range, making it the perfect companion for food.
The ongoing boom and great appreciation of Japanese cuisine worldwide has also strengthened the popularity of the beverage and thus the demand for a suitable glass. Sake has become the darling of sommeliers in top restaurants around the world.
“We are thrilled to have been able to develop a variety-specific glass for Junmai-shu together with Japan’s leading sake manufacturers. The new shape accentuates the layered and umami-rich flavour profile associated with a classic Junmai – a rich body, a slightly higher acidity level and a velvety texture,” explains Georg J. Riedel, 10th generation of the family business, who played a leading role in the development of the new glass shape.
By 2017, Riedel had conducted 42 workshops with 170 brewers and sake experts. Controlled blind tastings featuring more than 120 types of Junmai from every region of Japan were carried out, until finally the new “Junmai” glass shape was created and introduced to the market in the spring of 2018.
From Daiginjo to Junmai-shu
In 1999 Riedel’s Daiginjo glass already caused a stir. Riedel had conducted a series of workshops over the course of two years with dozens of sake brewers to pinpoint the ideal glass shape for Japan’s national beverage. The result was an elegant egg-shaped vessel with a convex rim to highlight the sake’s fruity and floral bouquet while bringing sweetness, acidity and bitterness into balance. Sake aficionados embraced the receptacle, sparking a new trend for drinking sake in wine glasses, and not just in small porcelain cups as before.
Following the success of the Daiginjo glass, Riedel turned its attention to Junmai.
The challenge of developing a glass for Junmai is that it does not have one definite aroma and flavour profile. While most of the Daiginjos on the market are light and aromatic, with Junmai, there is much more variety and complexity in the flavours and aromas.
The term “Junmai” – which translates as “pure rice” – refers to sake without the addition of distilled brewer’s alcohol. Unlike the realm of wine, where appellation systems govern the provenance and stylistic classifications, the categories of premium sake – Daiginjo, Ginjo, Junmai Daiginjo and Junmai Ginjo – are determined by seimaibuai (rice polishing ratio), the amount of rice remaining after the grains’ outer layers are milled away. Because the Junmai designation carries no minimum seimaibuai requirements or rules pertaining to style, the category’s flavour profile runs the gamut from dry and simple, to bright and fruity or rich and earthy.
A daunting task, which Riedel tackled together with Sake brewers and experts. The result is the Junmai glass.
At first glance, the shape of the new glass may cause some confusion, as it might well be taken for a cocktail glass owing to its wide rim. This is, however, necessary to evenly disperse the grain-inflected, woody and sherry-like aromas of rich matured Junmai sakes. These aromas would be overbearing in a close-mouthed glass. The diamond-shaped base, which was developed from Riedel’s Extreme series, controls the flow so that the liquid stays on the tongue, highlighting the sake’s velvety texture. The glass is fitted with a tall and graceful stem, intended, as Georg Riedel quips, “to elevate sake to the level of wine at the table.”
“The Junmai glass is an important milestone in our mission to further promote the appreciation of sake in Japan and around the world,” he explains.
Riedel recommends the Junmai glass for fuller and umami-dense types of Junmai, such as Kimoto and Yamahai, or rich matured brews displaying complex notes of caramel, dried fruit and mushroom. Aromatic types with lighter body and pure characteristics – such as Daiginjo, Ginjo, Junmai Daiginjo and Junmai Ginjo are best served in the Daiginjo glass.
John Gauntner, leading global sake expert, who was also involved in developing both glasses, is confident:
“The release of the new Junmai glass comes at a moment where sake knowledge is spreading rapidly. The fact that Riedel created a Junmai glass will raise awareness of sake around the world. That will surely entice many who would not normally be interested in sake.”