Sake: What You Need To Know
Sake, a wine made from the fermentation of rice, is the national beverage of Japan, where it is often served for special ceremonies and occasions.
The process of making rice wine is similar to the production of beer. Both require the fermentation of starch except that the conversion from starch to sugar to alcohol happens simultaneously in the production of rice wine, unlike in beer, where it happens in two steps. This fermentation causes it to have a much higher alcohol content of 15-20% ABV.
Just like other wines, sake can come in different varieties and flavors, although the process to create them is generally the same. Some producers use casks and barrels while others use a process called fukurozuri, which involves encasing the fermented mash in a cloth bag and containing the liquid drippings.
Sake can be served chilled, at room temperature, or hot, depending on the season and the preference of the drinker. The hot sake is intended for winter, and is generally the lower-grade variety. It is served in a small carafe called a tokkuri and then poured into a much smaller cup for drinking called a choko.
Unlike grape wine, there isn’t necessarily a notion of vintage for sake as most sakes are not aged, and are traditionally drunk within a year of production. They are classified by how finely the rice has been milled, and the finer the rice has been polished, the higher the grade. Higher grade sakes aren’t necessarily better in quality, but rather have different tastes that can resonate with the drinker.
Of course, sake should be enjoyed with delicious Japanese food, especially if you are enjoying fish or noodle dishes.