I subscribe to Grape Radio which is a wine enthusiast site. Recently, they did a show called All About Sake which was quite informative. If you do not know much about sake or wish to learn more then I suggest downloading and listening to the podcast (52 minutes, 24MB) as it will not be a waste of time. I enjoyed it enough to take a few notes below:
- There are 300+ different varieties of rice. Only 30 (approximately) are used in the making of sake.
- There is a specific rice, which is not edible, called sake rice. Sake rice is use to make premium sake while lower grade sake is created from the more edible table rice. About 75% of all sake produced today is made of table rice.
- Sake pairs well with the following types of food: fish (obviously), chicken/pork, cheeses, and even fried foods.
- Currently, only 5% of sake is exported to the United States due to low demand and lack of information.
- Sake reached its peak of popularity in Japan around 1973 and since then has been declining as Western culture has been influencing Japanese youth to gain more interest in beer, wine, and spirits.
- Rice, water, yeast, and mold are the key ingredients to brewing sake.
- The water used must not have any metallic elements in it.
- Yeast is used to break down the sugars while mold is used to break down the starches.
- The use of mold was introduced by the Japanese and is specific to sake production and not used by any other brewing process.
- The specifics on what type of yeast and mold is used is proprietary and kept secret by each brewer.
- Most rice grain is milled off after harvest so that only the core nodule is left. This nodule is about the size of a large cous cous perl. The rice grain that has been milled off is usually sold and used in as cooking ingredients and other uses.
Storage and Serving
- Sake does not generally keep longer than a year and drinking it within the first six months of being produced is optimal.
- Premium sake is typically served at 60 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit to almost freezing.
- Sake can range from being very sweet to bone dry in taste and is very hard to tell what it will be like when buying it. There is generally no information about this on the bottle label. You’ll have to experiment through trial and error to find out what you like and do not like.
- Contrary to popular belief, warming sake will destroy of the natural bouquet of flavors but, instead, hide imperfections in low grade sake. Premium sake will have more of a bouquet of flavor and exhibit fruit-like characteristics for something that does not include fruit as an ingredient.
- There are five types of sake. Generally, you want to look for the Ginjo and Diaginjo mentioned on the bottle labels for premium sake. A good bottle of Ginjo sake can cost between $20 to $100 in the United States. Anything cheaper than that is made with table rice. Ginjo has 40% of the rice grain milled off while Diaginjo has 50% to 65% milled off.
- Check out Vine Connection’s List of local stores for buying sake. You might find one that is near you.
- The Wine Room has a list from which you can buy online.