Brewing sake takes enormous amounts of water. From washing and steaming rice, cleaning all the equipment as well as fermentation stage. It will normally require about 50 times the weight of the rice. Also, it makes up 80% of the entire ingredients, since the rice grain does not contain any juice. It is natural to say that the quality of the sake is influence a lot on the quality of the water.
As Japanese islands are surround by the oceans, Japan has an abundant access to the water from the mountain, river and ocean, and there are several areas well known for high quality water. Most sake brewery tends to locate in the best water source in each region. Rice is something you could buy from other area but the source of water is an asset from the nature.
Generally, water could be classified by hard water and soft water depends on significant quantity of dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. Both of them do have a potential to make good quality of sake but the most suitable water is believe to be “semi-hard water” known as Miyamizu宮水 of Nada region. Hard water is rich in minerals that fastens the fermentation, resulting dry and masculine sake. Soft water has less minerals and create slower & gentle fermentation, and this results softer and feminine style sake, known as “Fushimizu伏水” of Kyoto region.
If you have any chance to visit Sake brewery, we highly recommend to try their “Shikomi-mizu 仕込み水”, the water of the berwery used for sake making. The quality of water tells stories itself how the flavour and texture of each sake was protected from generation to generation.