Come è Nero, the all-Italian sake made in Piedmont

Sake is not only Japanese: in Piedmont they created Nero, the first Italian sake, with black Vercelli rice and some vermouth influences.

A tribute rather than an imitation. Nero , the first Italian sake , presented in recent weeks to the general public during the Turin Cocktail Week , is currently on the shelves of the most important wine bars in Italy and in some selected bars, and can be bought for less than 30 euros. So ready for the test of the market which will be followed by an international promotion at the Bar Convent in Berlin from 7 to 9 October, the most important European event in the world of bars, and a presentation in Hong Kong, also in autumn.

An Italian rice sake

But how is this sake? Nero is made with Penelope quality black Vercelli rice . Behind the project is the Vercelli- based company gliAironi : over 100 years in the production and processing of rice,a sake made with black rice from Vercelliled today by Michele Perinotti , who continues the family tradition, and Gabriele Conte . They are the ones who had the idea over 4 years ago to start experimenting with the product in a different way, first with Biglia, a ” 100% rice beer “, and from 2018 with sake, for which a company was born. ad hoc In Fermento . “ It came naturally to us to try, precisely because of the experience gained previously. Furthermore, in terms of sake import volumes, Italy is, surprisingly, first in Europe. So there is a market. But our attempt does not want to imitate Japanese sake at all, we didn’t think of it even for a moment, rather it is inspired by them, it is our way to sake ”says Gabriele Conte. “Precisely for this reason – he adds – even some Japanese sake experts appreciated it, indeed, they felt honored by this all-Italian homage to a product so tied to their history “. The very use of the word sake in the Italian interpretation is misleading: in Japanese it generally identifies alcoholic beverages and not just a single product. So if there is a growing sake culture, with Nero the attempt is to make a new product.

Piedmont meets Japan

Nero comes from local rice but also from the tradition of Piedmontese vermouth . How can it be? Particularly significant, in fact, was at the beginning of last year, the meeting between the Aironi and the entrepreneur and mixing expert Davide Pinto , former producer of a vermouth and owner of the Turin bar Affini, and in Evho, the bartender school of Turin who refined the recipe and followed the entire production part. In this way, a profitable contamination has been created deriving from similar products and professionalism. Nero is born from the fermentation of Vercelli rice with local beer yeasts: “ We do not use the traditional Japanese noble rot. But the yeasts of beer, worked in our territory since 700 ”says Conte.


The product, after a fermentation of about 40 days, has 12 degrees. It is then fortified to bring it to 17 ° and flavored with about thirty botanicals just like a vermouth. The result in tasting is an interesting mix between the different traditions: the color is dark and not transparent, at the first impact the typical aromas related to the brewing fermentation emerge such as notes of banana and ripe fruit , but then the spicy notes that recall the vermouth. These botanicals are more evident on the palate: mugwort and yarrow and the different herbs and spices typical of vermouth production. The final umami notederives from the addition of a sweetener typical of vermouth production which in this case is a rice syrup . “ Unlike sake, which can be consumed cold or at room temperature throughout the meal, ours is more suitable for an end of meal or an aperitif, or in mixing, we let some bartenders taste it and they really liked it ” concludes Conte. The first production was 10,000 bottles and now they are ready for the second batch of 10,000.

To try in mixing: the recipes

“ In addition to tasting the pure product, bartenders like to use in mixing precisely because of its different notes ” tells us Davide Pinto. And here are the two recipes proposed by Michele Marzella in the Affini bar in Turin, to try the Black Sake in addition to the pure product, black sake is also great for blendingFor Paint it Black , a delicate and citrusy punch, pour 4.5 cl of sake, 1.5 cl of Italicus, 1.5 of umeshu, 1.5 cl of lime juice, 1.5 cl of charcoal sugar and 4 drops of bitters into the shaker: shake vigorously, strain on fresh ice and serve in a Collins glass with dehydrated lime. For It’s a kind of mango , a cocktail with an eccentric and spicy flavor in which the mango goes well with the umami of the sake and the spice of the curry, pour 4 cl of sake, 2.5 cl of Rum agricultural curry, 1.5 cl of juice of lemon, 1.5 cl of sugar and 3 cl of mango puree in the shaker. Strain on fresh ice into an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with mint leaves and mango leaves.

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