From the beginning of June to early-to-mid July, Japanese ume plums come into harvest and are readily available across the country. This apricot-like fruit is coveted for its unique sweet-sour flavour and its nutritional benefits. One of the most popular ways of enjoying ume is by making umeshu (Japanese plum wine). Made by steeping fresh ume plums in sugar and liquor, umeshu is a delicious liqueur enjoyed by many. Traditionally, many families in Japan make their own umeshu at home but you can now easily buy a wide variety of umeshu off the shelf.
Umeshu’s sweet and sour flavours are easy on the palate and pair well with many different types of food. From light bites such as salads, sashimi and hiyayakko tofu to richer food such as roast meats and ramen, umeshu offers a pleasing balance to your meal. Ume plums also contain benzaldehyde, which imbues a pleasing aroma when extracted into umeshu; this scent is also said to have a relaxing effect on the drinker.
Of course, umeshu is not just delicious – it’s healthy too. Ume plums contain plenty of potassium, manganese and fibre, which can help alleviate common digestive issues such as constipation, poor appetite or bloating. Umeshu also contains high levels of antioxidants, which help protect your body from damage caused by free radicals and improve the condition of your skin. The best part? Studies have shown that plum wines and other fruit wines contain significantly less headache-inducing histamines than red wines!
So whether you prefer yours neat, on the rocks or with a splash of soda water, the bright and refreshing flavours of umeshu is sure to satisfy. Read on to find out more about the different types of umeshu and where to get them.
Kanazawa Umeshu “Bairi”
Using a time-honoured recipe from Ishikawa Prefecture, this plum wine is a well-blended concoction of Japanese plums and fine-quality Marebito sake, which is made from the prefecture’s famous Mikohara rice. This richly aromatic brew is best enjoyed straight so you can fully appreciate its nuanced flavour profile. Bonus: the unique glass bottle can be used as a flower vase once it’s empty.
Featuring a winsome young girl on its bottle design, this pretty-in-pink plum wine is equally gentle on the palate. Made using bruise-free plums from Shizuoka Prefecture (best known as the home of Mount Fuji), this umeshu offers a delicate balance of sweetness and sourness.
MANZAIRAKU Kaga Umeshu Sparkling Bottle
Made with fresh plums from Hokuriku region(located in the north-western part of Honshu) and spring water from the sacred mountain Hakusan, this sparkling plum wine is a delicious update on the traditional umeshu recipe. In fact, this beverage is extremely well-received in Japan and is served to Grand Class Seats passengers on the renowned Hokuriku Shinkansen.
NAKANO BC "blossom" Sakura Umeshu
Originating from Wakayama Prefecture in the Kansai region, this umeshu is inspired by the beauty of Japanese cherry blossoms. For an Instagram-worthy pour, tilt the chilled bottle to shake the gold leaf within before pouring into a champagne glass. Sip slowly to savour the sweet-sour flavour of plums and the scent of cherry blossoms. This bottle also makes for an ideal gift as each bottle comes with a distinctive Sakura charm wrapped around the bottle.
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Product photos from nomono