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, and is the perfect companion for food.
Sake has become the darling of sommeliers in top restaurants around the world. The ongoing boom and appreciation of Japanese cuisine worldwide has strengthened its popularity, prompting demand for a suitable glass.
The perfect shape for Junmai
“We are thrilled to have been able to develop a variety-specific glass for Junmai-shu together with Japan’s leading sake manufacturers,” explains 10th generation Georg J. Riedel, who played a leading role in the development of the new glass shape. “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.”
By 2017, Riedel had conducted 42 workshops with 170 brewers and sake experts. These controlled blind tastings featured more than 120 types of Junmai from every region, until finally the new “Junmai” glass shape was created and introduced to the market in the Northern spring of 2018.
From Daiginjo to Junmai-shu
In 1999, Riedel debuted their Daiginjo glass following two years of workshops with dozens of sake brewers. This elegant egg-shaped vessel featured a convex rim to highlight the sake’s fruity and floral bouquet, while bringing sweetness, acidity and bitterness into balance. The product initially caused a stir due to its vast difference to the small porcelain cups sake was traditionally served in, however sake aficionados soon embraced the receptacle, sparking a new trend for drinking sake in wine glasses.
Following its success, Riedel turned its attention to Junmai. They quickly discovered the challenge of developing a glass for Junmai as it does not have one definite aroma and flavour profile. While most of the Daiginjos on the market are light and aromatic, there is much more variety and complexity in Junmai’s flavour profiles.
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. As 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. Riedel tackled this daunting task with the help of sake brewers and experts, resulting in the Junmai glass.
A brand new shape
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, which are overbearing in a close-mouthed glass. The diamond-shaped base, developed from Riedel’s Extreme series, controls the flow on the tongue and highlights 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.
Leading global sake expert John Gauntner, who was also involved in developing both glasses, is supports this sentiment: “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.”
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.
Check out this video to see behind the scenes at one of our sensory workshops for the new Junmai glass.