A three-hour ferry ride from Niigata City took Jackson to Sado Island, where she visited Obata Shuzo, where the same family has been producing sake since 1892. Sado Island is a World Agricultural Heritage Site. The island’s rice farmers use methods that protect the endangered Japanese crested ibis or toki. Shells from oysters bred on the island are used to filter water before it’s added to rice fields. The brewery also uses solar energy.
High-quality sake is made with a special variety of rice that is polished to remove the bran and then fermented. Sake production is a complicated multistep process. The alcohol per volume is between 13 and 17 percent, which is a bit stronger than most wines but not as potent as a distilled spirit. It can be served at various temperatures. Sake tastings, like those offered at Niche, help customers learn more about different styles so they can focus on the kinds they find most appealing.