Know Your Sake

 

Who’s ever tried sake here? Did you know that while most people call it a “rice wine”, its brewing process is actually more similar to beer than wine? Here are a few more things about this brew that you probably didn’t know.  

 

What is Sake?

What we know as Sake or rice wine, actually directly translates to the word “liquor” (酒) in the Japanese language. Generally speaking, it refers to any alcoholic drink in Japan. However, in the Western parts, this name is used to refer to a beverage fermented from rice grains. This brewing process actually makes it more of a beer than a wine. However, unlike beer, sake isn’t carbonated. Its distinct flavor makes people assume that it’s more of a  variety of wine than beer. But with its unique taste coupled with the fact that its not distilled, people simple consider it as a as an entirely different spirit in its own right.  

 

Sake

photo courtesy: gastronomista.com

 

 

6 Sake Facts

 

Brewing

Most sakes are brewed for about a month, then are “aged” for six months before releasing to the market.  

 

Alcohol Content

The are generally 15% to 17% alcohol.  

 

Color

Most of them are transparent due to the filtering process at the brewery before shipping. These types have generally less flavor, though. Sakes which have light amber or gold tones to them, on the other hand, are generally fuller-bodied in in flavor. If your sake is dark brown, don’t drink it. That means it’s aged for too long.  

 

Temperature

Not all sakes are made equal, as with everything else. Apart from differences in quality and taste, different sakes are best served in varying temperatures. Most decent sakes are spot on when their cooled, but a lot of them taste amazing warmed (not scalding) as well. Some say that the fruitier ones are best chilled while the richer ones are better warmed; in the end, it’s all a matter of taste. If you’re not sure about what to do with your new brew, check the labels for serving recommendations.  

 

Calories

A 5.5 oz serving would play around 180 to 240 calories.  

 

Polishing

Most of the rice grains used for making sake is milled or “polished” (as the industry puts it) before brewing, especially the higher grade varieties. 

 

 

FLAVOR PROFILE

 

Fragrance (none – fragrant)

How strong the aromatic package of the brew. Does it smell like fruits, flowers, or rice; or does it have a practically have no smell? How long does the brew’s fragrance linger? 

 

Impact (quiet – explosive)

Initial impression of flavors. Does it have a strong flavor right from the bat, or is it a gentler initial flavor? Does the flavor spread through every crevice of your mouth or does it go straight to your throat? A quiet impact, of course, will have a mild taste from the start, while an explosive one will have a stronger assault of flavors against your tongue even at first taste.

 

Sweet/Dry (sweet – dry)

Like wine, sake can be sweet or dry. However, the scales for this have changed over the years, and a brew’s acidity plays part in how our senses perceive flavors. Sakes with higher acidity levels will generally taste drier compared to ones with lower acidity levels. 

 

Acidity (soft – puckering)

 To put it simply, does it stand up better to oily food, or does its taste become overpowered by it? The ones with higher acidity holds its own better against oilier food and fish (like tempura) compared to ones with lower acidity. The ones with lower acidity work best with rich or salty flavored dishes. Remember that acidity doesn’t mean acid content.

 

Presence (unassuming – full)

Is the brew full-bodied and rich in flavor, or is it light and delicate against your tongue? Different brews can vary from smooth and airy, to thick and rich and full in terms of taste. A fuller presence is richer than the light and airy unassuming flavor.

 

Earthiness (delicate – dank)

Like scent, flavors have different notes to them which make up the overall taste. Earthiness refers to the presence (or lack of) of heavier and darker flavors like bitterness, tartness, and dankness.  The presence of these heavier notes refer to dank, whilst the absence of them refer to delicate.

 

Tail (vanishing – pervasive)

Does the flavor completely leave your mouth after you swallow the brew or does it linger around your mouth and nose minutes after? You can consider a tail vanishing if the taste completely disappears after each sip, and pervasive if the taste stays and

 

SAKE TYPES

 

Junmai Flavor Profile

 

Junmai-shu 

  •  – Pure rice wine
  • – No added alcohol, starches, or sugars
  • – Made with rice grains, water, and koji mold.
  • – 70% polished grains (no more than 70% of the orginal size of the grains are brewed)
  • – Full, rich, and acidic in flavor

 

 

Ginjo Flavor Chart

Ginjo-shu

  • – 60% polished grains (40% of the grain is milled or polished away)
  • – Made with rice, water, and special yeast, with lower temperatures for fermentation
  • – Fragrant but with a delicate taste

 

 

 

 

Daiginjo flavor Chart

Daiginjo-shu

  • – 50% polished grains (sometimes goes to 35%)
  • – Different styles with subtly different flavors
  • – Typically fragrant and full-bodied in flavor

 

 

 

 

Honjozo flavor chart

Honjozo-shu

  • – Like Junmai-shu, is 70% polished
  • – Flavor is lightened with a bit of pure distilled alcohol
  • – Its fragrant, light, and earthy, and the flavor lingers in your mouth

 

 

 

 

Namazake

  • – Can be any of the 4 types as long as its unpasteurized.
  • – Fresh and lively flavor
  • – Loses flavor and clarity if not stored cold