Wakayama Prefecture accounts for about 60% of the ume (Japanese apricot) fruit yield in Japan. Utilizing the geographical benefits of being in Japan's largest ume production region, Nakano BC brews umeshu (ume liquor) made with only Nanko-ume fruit produced in Wakayama. Our umeshu brewery comprises 42 tanks that hold about 24,000 liters, and all unblended umeshu is brewed in those tanks. The first brewing preparation each year is on Ume no Hi (ume day), June 6. The next month or so after that day, all tanks are dedicated to stage-wise preparation in which umeshu is prepared in steps. Ume fruit cannot be eaten raw and spoils quickly, so freshness is an important quality-determining factor. As we enter the preparation period, the brewery fills with the fragrance of fresh ume.
The best ume are large ones. As the seeds are roughly the same size in all ume, larger fruits are meatier. The ume fruit that is the main ingredient of umeshu is Nanko-ume that has special characteristics such as large size, thin skin, small seed, thick and soft meat, a gently peach-like fragrance, and high citrate content. We enter contracts with JA and private farmers to procure only Nanko-ume from Wakayama, and sometimes visit the orchards to examine the quality. Care is given to careful selection of not only the ume fruit, but also the sugar and white liquor to ensure they do not reduce the rich Nanko-ume fragrance and sour taste. In addition to using the best ingredients, skill and techniques are essential for brewing delicious umeshu. Perfect timing is critical for all stages, including steeping, stirring, extraction, and separation/aging, and specialist umeshu master brewers carefully examine the conditions in each process as the brewing proceeds.
The mixture is always steeped for six months after preparation so that the ume fruit and liquid (umeshu) separate. The umeshu is then aged for another six or nine months to create a deeper flavor for a high quality umeshu with an excellent color, flavor, and aroma. Although the sweetness can be increased by adding sugar, the sourness can only be achieved with the ume, so copious amounts of Nanko-ume fruit are used to thoroughly extract the natural sour essence and flavor of ume. A good balance of sweet and sour is the key to delicious taste.
Fruit juice and other ingredients are added to the unblended sake produced by the end of the aging process to create various types of cocktail umeshu. Kishu Umeshu Beninanko sake made with only beninanko ume that is a special variety of the fruit on the tree tops that dyes crimson from sunlight exposure and Gekko made in collaboration with carefully selected farms.
Ume is packed with minerals like calcium, iron, and phosphorus. They have four time more calcium and six times more iron than apples that are said to keep the doctor away, and they also have more magnesium and zinc. These fruit may be called the treasures of Wakayama. A feature of umeshu is that the healthy ingredients of ume can be ingested by drinking. There are many ways to drink it, such as before meals and with dessert, so it is great for those who cannot drink much or as a started alcoholic beverage.