Sake 101

Sake in General

With a history of over 2,000 years, sake is very much a part of Japanese culture and tradition. As the national beverage of Japan it is consumed by every class in society, and is enjoyed at various events ranging from private business dinners to public festivals and religious ceremonies. Almost every region in Japan has a brewery which produces sake that is unique to that area, and the way sake is produced today still follows the methods of the past.

Ingredients - 4 Key Ingredients in Sake Making -

WATER

The quality of water can affect the quality of sake.
Hard Water=Dry, Crisp Sake (Rich in minerals that trigger vigorous, quick fermentation)
Soft Water=Soft, Luscious Sake (Slower fermentation process)
Sake breweries are located in areas with excellent sources of natural spring water.


RICE

Sake uses only the core starch of the rice.
Sake rice is not a table rice. Sake rice has a bigger central core with a denser concentration of starch.


KOJI (Aspergillus Oryzae)

Koji is a mold (or spore) that produces a variety of enzymes while growing on steamed rice. When finished growing, koji looks like rice with a touch of frosting. Koji is crucial for converting the starch of rice to into sugar during fermentation.


YEAST

A fungi that turns sugar into alcohol during fermentation.
Sake brewing yeast is related to the yeast used to brew wine and beer, but is far more potent-producing an alcohol level of 20%.


Type of Sake

RICE POLISHING RATE JUNMAI STYLE NON-JUNMAI STYLE CHARACTERISTIC
Ingredients
Water, Rice, Koji, Yeast Water, Rice, Koji, Yeast
and added 1-10%
Distilled Alcohol
1
RICE POLISHING RATE 50% 50% or Less
Remaining
JUNMAI DAIGINJO DAIGINJO Usually light and fragrant; Ginjo brewing method used
RICE POLISHING RATE 60% 60% or Less
Remaining
JUNMAI GINJO GINJO Usually light and fragrant; Ginjo brewing method used
RICE POLISHING RATE 70% 70% or Less
Remaining
JUNMAI 2 HONJOZO Varies;
Not Specified Futsu-Shu 3 Varies

  1. Adding distilled alcohol does not make a sake lower grade; it is part of one manner of brewing that produces specific results (like lighter, more fragrant sake with a more robust structure and longer shelf life).
  2. Until recently, rice used for Junmai had to be at least 30% polished. Due to changes in Japanese law, Junmai no longer requires a specified polishing rate. Nevertheless, the amount of polishing must be listed somewhere on the label.
  3. Futsu-shu refers to sake which does not fit into the premium classification (Daginjo, Ginjo, Honjozo). A sake would be classified as “Futusu-shu,” for example, when the amount of distilled alcohol added exceeds 10%, or when a sweetener or acidifier is added.

Rice Polishing

All rice, when harvested, is brown rice. Sake is made from the starches in the center of the grain. Surrounding the starchy center are lipids, proteins and minerals that cause off aromas and flavors. The outer part of the grain, including the husk, must be polished away before it can be used for brewing sake.

Dry? Sweet?

SMV (Sake Meter Value)
A representation of the hydrometer is used to measure the density and flavor (Nihonshu- Do) of sake. It is often printed on its label with the values presented in a horizontal scale. Higher numbers represent "dry" and lower numbers represent "sweet".

Ways to enjoy sake

With Wine Glass

You can enjoy drinking sake with wine glasses to expand not only the taste, but the aroma as well. Due to the fruity aroma and body that comes from ginjo and daiginjo style sake, wine glasses greatly enhance the sweetness and UMAMI. Try it out! You will be amazed and satisfied.


Warm Sake

Not all sake isn’t meant to be drunk warm, but Junmai style is one of those exceptions. Not only can Junmai sake be served warm, it is also enjoyed that way by many sake experts & enthusiasts. As more people experience and learn about sake, one will find that some premium sake can be enjoyed either warm or chilled.


How to make Warm Sake

  1. Fill a small pan halfway with water. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to a minimum.
  2. Pour sake into a tokkuri (sake jug/pitcher) so it is three-quarters full. Place tokkuri in the pan of water for about 5 minutes or until the sake has warmed to your preference.
  3. Check the temperature by lifting the tokkuri and touching the bottom. Traditionally the bottom of the tokkuri is indented in the center. If the center feels warm enough to satisfy one's own preference, it is ready to enjoy.
    (You can also use a microwave to warm up sake.)

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