TYPES OF SAKE
Just like there are different types of wines such as Riesling or Cabernet or Merlot, Sake too comes in a variety of flavors, varied alcohol content or Sake Meter Value or SMV, finishes and different serving temperatures.
SAKE VS WINE VS BEER
Many confuse sake as wine, but Sake is fundamentally different than wine. As wine is made by fermenting sugars present in fruits, whereas Sake is brewed more like beer. The rice starch is converted into sugar and fermented into alcohol. But it’s nothing like beer either, as brewing beer involves two steps, fermentation & conversion of starch to sugar and then to alcohol. While sake is created in one single step, where fermentation & conversion happens simultaneously.
Sake has a fifth of acidity of a wine, lacks crisp texture found in wine, but it’s a refreshing acid bite, the subtlety of flavor & diversity of style makes up for in texture.
Story of the Japanese rice wine or ‘Sake’ as popularly known by the World, starts with one main ingredient- ‘Rice’.
There are, around 70 rice varieties used for its production, with three main varieties, yamadanishiki, gyohakumangoku and miyamanishiki, making up nearly three-quarters of the total rice-cropping area of Japan.
Once decided on which variety of rice to be used, then comes – Polishing. Sake is categorized based on grade, style and the amount of polishing rice receives
Rice is polished to remove the husk, bran, and a portion of the germ. The amount of polishing the rice has received is the primary factor in finding good sake. Less polished rice produces higher quality & more flavourful sake.
This fermentation process is multiple parallels, unique to sake. During sake brewing, spores of kōji-kin are scattered over steamed rice which releases enzymes that convert the rice starches into glucose. Which is immediately converted into alcohol with the help of yeast making Sake brewing quite efficient. And it all happens in a single vat, which pretty much distinguishes sake from other liquors like beer, resulting in sake having a higher alcohol content than many liquors.
Toji is the job title of a sake brewer and is a highly respected job in Japanese society. Sake making is considered an art in Japan and a Tōji is being regarded like an artist, musician or a painter
VARIETY OF SAKE
With 70 different types of rice and various polishing ratio, leads to a wide range of Sake available.
There are two basic types of sake: Futsū-shu (ordinary sake similar to table wine) and Tokutei meishō-shu (special-designation premium sake) There are eight varieties of special-designation sake.
Genshu – Full strength sake that is undiluted and typically bottled at 18-20%.
Koshu – is a Sake that has been aged.
Nama – A sake that is unpasteurized and needs to be refrigerated.
Nigori – is a sake that tends to have a cloudy appearance because it is slightly unfiltered.
Dainginjo – is the Ultra-premium sake with rice polished 35% to 49% with fruity & floral fragrance.
Ginjo – Premium sake with rice polished 50% to 60% and is served chilled.
Junmai – Traditionally a rice that has been polished 70%
Tokubetsu Junmai – Junmai sake made from rice polished at least 65%.
HOW TO SERVE SAKE
Higher quality sakes are served chilled, while cheaper sakes should be warmed up. Cooler temperatures allow the full flavour profile of the sake to emerge while the rough flavors of cheaper sake (think sweeter and fruitier) benefits from the warmth.
HOW TO STORE SAKE
Sake is not a wine so it should not be stored like a wine because it does not improve with age. To keep your sake fresh, you need to consume it closer to its bottling date.
Unopened bottles should be kept in the refrigerator and can stay there for up to 16 months. If you intend to open it within a week, a wine chiller will suffice.
Opened bottles of sake should be capped and refrigerated and will last around 2 weeks.
So garb that Sake bottle and raise your cup for a toast!