Beginnersí guide to the world of sake

Beginnersí guide to the world of sake

What is sake?
Sake is the national beverage of Japan with its history dating back to almost two thousand years ago. The ingredients used in brewing sake is primarily rice, water and a filamentous fungus called koji, which ferments soybeans to produce miso and soy sauce. Sake is categorised into Junmai, Ginjo, Daiginjo and Honjozo depending on the ingredients and Seimai-buai (rice's milling rate).

How is sake made? What makes the production process of sake so unique?
Brewing sake is extremely complex. The rice used to make sake does not naturally ferment with the addition of yeast alone, whilst the crushed grapes do in the production process of wine. Similarly in producing beer, fermentation takes place after yeast and hot water are added to crash malt. Sake brewing begins with the introduction of koji, which breaks down rice starchinto glucose in a process known as saccharification. Then sake yeast is added and fermentation begins. This long and hard process of sake brewing is under the strict supervision of an experienced and skillful toji (head brewer) at all times.

What does sake taste like?
The long fermentation process of sake produces a wide variety of amino acids, giving sake a balanced, rounded taste and fresh flavour. Ginjo-shu typically embraces a fruity aroma, resulted from the special yeast employed in its production. Nihonshu-do is widely regarded as an indication of the flavour, usually identified as dryness or sweetness. Higher rates such as +2 and upwards indicate bitter or dry sake, whilst sweet sake tends to be marked with low rates such as -2 and downwards.

What is shochu? How is it different from sake?
The main difference between sake and shochu are: 1. Whilst sake is brewed, shochu is distilled; 2. Shochu has a higher alcohol content than sake and is, generally speaking, enjoyed on more casual occasions; 3. Whilst sake is known for its fruity aroma, shochu is commonly expected to have a "nutty" or "earthy" flavour. A variety of raw materials are made into shochu such as rice, wheat, sweet potato and buck wheat, all of which give their own distinctive flavours to the end product.

How can I enjoy sake with food?
The basic rule of serving sake with food is quite simple: match sake and food of the similar kinds (flavour, texture, fragrance, acidity etc). For example, if you are having a light, aromatic meal, you should be serving sake that is also fruity and refreshing such as ginjo-shu or daiginjo-shu. The same goes to a rich and flavoursome meal, for which full-bodied junmai-shu or honjozo-shu would be the perfect match.

Is sake better for your health than other alcohol drinks?
Any alcohol drinks must be enjoyed responsibly first and foremost. But what sake is believed to offer in terms of staying young and healthy is incredibly diverse. Whilst studies show that sake helps prevent cancer and increase good cholesterol, probably most significantly it helps body to generate heat and maintain its temperature for a period longer than any other alcohol drinks. This means that sake promotes the circulation of blood, relieving tension and stiffness in muscles which are often caused by stress. Koji acid in sake is also widely recognised as a revitalising agent, lightening and moisturising skin, which explains the increasing popularity of sake beauty products in Japan.

This product was added to our catalog on Wednesday 07 July, 2010.