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8 Facts about Sake Wine

Tom Inoue

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A growing number of people are discovering and exploring Japanese sake nowadays. But in spite of its growing popularity, there is still more to this brew than meets the eye.

How much do you really know about sake? Scroll down and find out.

1. Sake is Made from Rice

The rice used for making sake is a special variety called Saka Mai (Sake Rice).

sake rice and table rice

Image Credit:Nara Prefecture

Left: Sake Rice
Right: Food Rice

Its grain is larger in size than that of food rice. Its prominent white core is the most essential component of sake. To retrieve this white core, the rice is often polished. The more polished it is, the more delicious and delicate the taste becomes.

2. It is More Like Beer than Wine

Sake is often referred to as rice wine because of its similarities in aroma and taste with wine. But as to fermentation process, it’s actually more like beer. Both beer and sake begin with starch, which is first converted to sugar, then to alcohol.

3. Its Alcohol Content is Slightly Higher than Wine

At 15-16% alcohol by volume, sake is stronger than both beer and wine. At this level, its rich and strong aromas are best expressed, so sake is diluted from around 18%. But also, Japanese liquor tax applies lower tax to lower alcohol sake, and this pushes breweries to dilute sake, too.

4. It can be Enjoyed Hot or Cold

Sake is best enjoyed at temperatures ranging from 40℉ (5℃) to 130℉ (55℃). But keep in mind that excessive heating may diminish its taste and delicateness. Conversely, heating at just the right temperature can intensify the aroma and savoriness of other types of sake.

5. Ginjo Sake is Rare

Among the different types of sake, Ginjo-types have the highest quality. It uses highly polished rice, and takes long time for fermentation under strict temperature control. The resulting sake is very aromatic and has pure and clear taste. Ginjo comprises only 13% of the entire sake production volume in Japan. When you get to try one, it won’t disappoint you.

6. Price is Quality

The price of sake is dependent on how polished the rice grains are. Sake rice can be expensive and a high rice polishing ratio is key to its quality. The general principle is the more expensive the sake, the more delicate and finer the taste.

riche polishing

Image Credit:Hakushika 

7. It goes well with various dishes

Many think that they should consume sake with sushi or Japanese foods only. Sure, it might not go well with strong, spicy, or heavy dishes because they tend to be overpowering. But it’s not a bad idea at all to pair sake with common food items such as, pizza, cheese, and marinated seafood. Refer to the image above for our recommended food-sake pairings.
Keep in mind that there is no rule in food-pairing, and you are free to combine as you wish.

<Flavor of sake and possible pairings>
Sake and food pairing chart

8. Brewery Tours are Available

Some sake breweries in Japan provide free tours, and they’re in English too. If you’re a sake fan and have an opportunity to visit Japan, there’s no reason why you should miss this.

ishikawa brewery sake tour

Image Credit:Ishikawa Brewery 

<Recommended sake brewery tours around Tokyo: >

Free tours in English: Ishikawa shuzo*Ask for English tour in advance

Tours with a fee: Anchorman Inc.

Sake is gaining popularity both among enthusiasts and the general public. But there are still a few things about it most people don’t know yet. These facts and trivia will give you a better understanding of sake that can lead to a more enjoyable and memorable sake experience.

Grab the next opportunity to try sake!

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