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- Product Specification of Geographical Indication "利根沼田（Tone Numata）"
Ⅰ Matters relating the characteristics of liquor which is essentially attributable to its geographical origin
(1) Characteristics of liquor
Seishu of Tone Numata has the quality of a sake that gives a moderate level of umami (the fifth taste alongside sweet, sour, bitter and salty) in generally clear flavor.
The sake tastes a bit bitter, which brings out refreshing sourness and body with umami, then mellow umami and sweetness, unique to the rice variety harvested in this region, spread on the palate. The flavor can be said to be fresh with a light alcoholic taste that neutralizes the alcoholic feeling despite its alcohol content.
The aftertaste is slightly bitter, which highlights its flavor, in addition to pure umami and sweetness. This sake goes well with food ingredients that bring out bitterness, umami and sourness.
The sake not only smells of fruits, such as grapefruit, white peach, yellow apple, banana, melon and litchi, which is generated by yeast, but also tastes like almond jelly, in addition to the fragrance of freshly pounded rice cakes that comes from rice. Furthermore, combining with the delicious aftertaste, the fragrance that evokes green grass and fresh verdure can be felt.
The color is generally like crystal and is clear with a touch of light gold.
The bitter aftertaste evokes spring vegetables. This sake goes well with the bitterness of mountain vegetables, such as butterbur shoots and aralia sprouts, and green crop, which are harvested in this region. Moreover, the amino acid from seishu of Tone Numata brings out the flavor of meals in combination with the umami derived from the animal protein in meals that use livestock products (pork, beef and poultry) that are specialties of this region.
(2) Essential attribution of its geographical origin to characteristics of liquor
i. Natural factors
(i) Water quality
The Tone Numata region, which is within the scope of its geographical origin, is in the north of Gunma Prefecture and is located in a region wedged between lines formed by the Mikuni Mountains centering on Mt. Hotaka and Mt. Tanigawadake in the north, and volcanos of Mt. Nikko-Shirane, Mt. Akagisan, Mt. Asama, etc. in the south.
The region is characterized by a river terrace that was formed by sand deposited in Lake Konumata, which existed about 150,000 years ago. Rainwater that falls in mountains, such as Mt. Hotaka and Mt. Tanigawadake, runs through sandy and muddy grave layers accumulated at the bottom of “Lake Konumata,” ending up bringing rich river water and underground water to this region. Water that goes through these sandy and muddy grave layers turns to soft water, becoming a factor that gives seishu of Tone Numata clear flavor and color.
This region belongs to the climate zone of the Sea of Japan (the Hokuriku and Sanin type). In winter, it often snows and rains with a monsoon and is very cold in this region.
This region has a larger amount of precipitation and also enjoys longer hours of sunlight during rice-growing months than other regions in Gunma Prefecture. Also, the temperature difference is wide in a day. Whereas the daytime highest temperature sometimes exceeds 30°C in August, the daytime lowest temperature goes below 20°C in the same month. Due to these factors, it is said that starch that is generated by daytime photosynthesis is stored effectively in the night-time, whereby this region can harvest rich and well ripened rice that is suitable to sake making.
Additionally, temperatures in rice paddies can be kept constant by using rich river water and ground water, which is said to be effective for preventing damage from high temperatures on scorching days. Thus, it can be expected that rice of high quality can be reaped stably.
Furthermore, harsh coldness in winter is also highly appropriate as an environment for sake brewing.
ii. Human factors
It is said that seishu making was commenced on a full scale in the Tone Numata region in the Edo era. The record shows that there were 26 sake makers in 1809, suggesting that regional brewers made close interactions around this time, such as forming “brewer groups” to make arrangements to comply with regulations on brewing, sales and other basic matters, which have been handed down to today.
In the old days, sake was made under the leadership of groups of chief brewers, named Echigo Toji. Their brewing technique remained within a group and was rarely shared with other ones. Nowadays, however, all breweries have shifted to a system in which there are owners of breweries doubling as chief brewers, and employed chief brewers. Under this system, regular exchange of information, etc. and research have been made among chief brewers in the region as part of close interactions among breweries, which is a tradition since the establishment of brewer groups. It can be said that the characteristics of seishu in Tone Numata have been made more distinctive by this activity.
Breweries there have made efforts to maintain and improve the quality of sake, unique to this region, especially through development of yeast that originates in this region, research and accumulation of expertise in rice making and sake brewing, suitable to the yeast.
Additionally, all breweries in this region are active in making efforts to preserve the environment in the belief that preservation of natural environment in this region is crucial to maintaining the quality of sake.
Moreover, breweries are also engaged in revitalizing the region by leveraging sake making as its pivot, which has materialized as activities of the “Liaison Council for Tone Numata Sakagura Tourism,” which wineries and beer breweries too belong to.
Ⅱ Matters relating to ingredients and production method of liquor
- (1) Ingredients
i. Rice and rice koji for use must be chosen from the following trademarks and rice varieties harvested within the scope of its geographical origin.
- Yuki Hotaka
(When Yuki Hotaka Co., Ltd. attaches the trademark “Yuki Hotaka,”rice for use must be one that fulfills the standards, etc., set forth by the company and that is labeled with the trademark “Yuki Hotaka.”
ii. Only water for use must be collected within the scope of its geographical origin and one that has not gone through physical or chemical processes other than sediment and filtration.
iii. Only yeast for fermentation must be the following.
- Gunma KAZE yeast
- Gunma G2 yeast
- Yeast that was collected and cultured within the scope of its geographical origin (yeast from a brewery)
iv. Regarding the ingredients of “seishu” provided in Article 3, item 7-b of the Liquor Tax Act, no ingredients other than “seishu” must be used.
v. In the case of using seishu instead of water, only seishu produced from ingredients in i, ii, and iii above must be used.
(2) Production method
(i) Sake must be one that was produced by the production methods of seishu stipulated by Article 3, item 7-a and b of the Liquor Tax Act and within the scope of its geographical origin.
(ii) When sake is store in the process of sake brewing, it must be stored within the scope of its geographical origin.
(iii) Bottling must be completed with containers planned to be delivered to consumers within the scope of its geographical origin.
Ⅲ Matters relating to management for maintaining the characteristics of liquor
(1) Roles and Location of “Control Body”
In order to use geographical indication (GI) “Tone Numata,” the liquor that uses the GI is required to be confirmed by the following control body pursuant to guidelines for work implementation, prepared by the control body as to whether the relevant liquor satisfies “1. Matters related to characteristics of liquor attributable to the geographical origin of liquor“ and “2. Matters relating to the ingredients and production method of liquor” by the time the relevant liquor is shipped to places (excluding places subject to the provision of Article 28, paragraph 1, of the Liquor Tax Act) from its brewing place (including places deemed as brewing places with the permit to produce liquor by the provisions of Article 28, paragraph 6 or Article 28-3, paragraph 4 of the Liquor Tax Act [Act No. 6 of 1953])
Name of Control Body: GI Tone Numata Meeting
Address: 1306-2, Takahira, Shirasawa-cho, Numata-shi, Gunma Prefecture
Contact: Telephone number: 0278-53-2334 (direct to Ootone Shuzo)
(2) Management of “Yeast used for fermentation”
“Yeast used for fermentation,” stipulated as an ingredient of GI Tone Numata, shall be managed by the control body in accordance with the guidelines for work implementation to prevent its characteristics from altering.
(3) Indication of “Brewing Year”
In the case of displaying similar indications, such as “Brewing Year (BY)” and “Vintage,” together with the use of GI “Tone Numata,” they shall be indicated in accordance with the guidelines for work implementation.
Ⅳ Matters relating liquor classes
Seishu/sake (Article 3, Item 7 of the Liquor Tax Act)