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Sake-Guide

SAKE - a traditional alcoholic drink from Japan.

What is Sake?

Sake is a traditional alcoholic drink from Japan. It is a rice wine that can be drunk both hot or cold. It is made from special sake rice types which are fermented. The higher the degree of polishing of the rice grains to a fraction of the original size, the greater the refinement and taste of the rice wine.

Hot sake is drunk from small cups and cold traditionally from square cedar cups. Today cold sake is served in wine glasses. Just like wine, the different sake types fit different types of food. The quality range is very wide. From the simple pleasure in a can to very exclusive varieties, which may contain gold leaf or are stored over decades in traditional oak barrels, everything available for sake enthusiasts.



Sake Types

A schematic illustration shows the different sake grades. The higher the level, the higher the degree of quality and price.

The six in the schema described sake types belong to the premium class ( Tokutei Meishoshu ), and take a share of approximately 20% of the sake production in Japan. Of these, the top four types of " Ginjo-shu " can be designated as super premium sake. They comprise approximately 6% of total sake production of Japan.

" Futsuu Shu " is similar to the category of table wine, and does not qualify as a premium sake. In general, a significant proportion of distilled alcohol is added in order to increase the amount of subsequently. The proportion of this type amounts about 80% of the entire Japanese sake production. Some of these sake types may have both sugar or organic acids added to improve the flavor. None of these sake types contain preservatives.

Despite the classification, there are large overlaps of the respective groups, so that the scheme shown on the next page serves only for orientation. There are a number of sake types which, although not part of the premium class, are also very unique, special and enjoyable. What really matters is solely the personal taste.


Why is the rice polished?

The starch that is needed for the fermentation for producing sake, is located in the core of the grain (different rice types are used for the production of sake then for consumption as food). In the outer layers, there are fats, proteins, amino acids and other ingredients that have a lasting effect on the taste. If these layers polished away before fermentation, the resulting sake is clear, elegant and "more refined" while the natural flavors are highlighted.

As a simple definition, the more the used rice grains that are used to brew are polished, the higher the degree of the sake type. For example, the outer shell of rice grains for Junmai-shu and Honjozo Shu are peeled 30%, so that around 70% of the original rice grain is left for the production of sake.

The percentage of the polishing grade mentioned here are only the minimum requirements for brewing the particular sake type. Often the rice is polished more than is required according to the sake degree. For example, rice for Daiginjo-shu is often reduced to 35% of its original size, the 65% of its outer shell have been peeled off.


Flavor Profiles

Junmai-Shu

The taste is a little heavier and fuller than that of the other varieties. Acidity is also slightly higher. Junmai-shu is pure sake without additives such as sugar, starch and alcohol.

Honjozo-Shu

The Honjozo Shu is tasting rather light and is often a bit dry. To Honjozo-Shu a little distilled alcohol is added to round out the flavor a little and highlight the particular aroma. Honjozo Shu is also appreciated as a warm drink.

Ginjo-Shu

The flavor is more complex and more delicate than that of Junmai-shu or Honjozo Shu sake. During the manufacture, specific starch and lower fermentation temperatures are used. But these labor-intensive techniques create a flavor and aroma that often fruity and floral at the same time.

Daiginjo-Shu

Daiginjo-shu is an improvement of Ginjo-shu . The rice is peeled before production until 50% and sometimes even until 35% is left. The production is done with even more care so that this absolute premium sake is produced.

Namazake

Namazake is sake that has not been pasteurized. It should always be kept refrigerated or the taste and clarity can suffer. Nemazake has a fresh, lively flavor.


All types of sake (Jumai-Shu, Honjozo-Shu, Ginjo-Shu und Daiginjo-Shu) can be Namazake.


Sake Ranking

Ranking
Without added alcohol*
With added alcohol*

Junmai Daiginjo-shu

Member of the category Junmai Ginjo-shu . Very high polishing grade of the rice grains (at least to a size of 50%**). Extremely precise and highly labor-intensive method of production. The tip of the art of brewing. Lightweight, full-bodied and with a fragrant bouquet.

Daiginjo-shu

Member of the category Ginjo-shu . Very high polishing grade of the rice grains (at least to a size of 50%**). Extremely precise and highly labor-intensive method of production. The tip of the art of brewing. Lightweight, full-bodied and with a fragrant bouquet.

Junmai Ginjo-shu

Brewed in labor-intensive steps. The use of machinery is avoided, instead, traditional tools and methods are used. High polishing grade of the rice grains (at least to a value of 60%**). Fermented in cold temperatures over a long period. Light, fruity and aromatic.

Ginjo-shu

Brewed in labor-intensive steps. The use of machinery is avoided, instead, traditional tools and methods are used. High polishing grade of the rice grains (at least to a value of 60%**). Fermented in cold temperatures over a long period. Light, fruity and aromatic.

Junmai-shu

Made only from rice, water and koji mold. The rice is polished to a size of at least 70%. Full, rich and clearly defined structure of taste.

Tokubetsu Junmai-shu (Special Junmai-shu ) points to a higher polishing grade of the rice grains or the use of a special sake rice type.

Honjozo-shu

Made from rice, water, koji mold and a small amount of distilled alcohol as a tool for enhanced extraction of the flavor.

Tokubetsu Honjozo Shu or (Special Honjozo Shu) points to a higher polishing grade of the rice grains or the use of a special sake rice type.

*Subsequently Added Alcohol: Cheap sake types often have a high percentage of distilled alcohol added at the final stage of production, in order to increase the alcohol content. In the premium classes, as with the sake types from the right column ( Honjozo-Shu Shu-Ginjo, Daiginjo-shu ) only a small amount of distilled alcohol is added subsequently in the final stages of production. In this case, this does not happen, in order to increase the alcohol content, but, in a controlled manner, to draw the highly aromatic and flavorful ingredients that are soluble in alcohol from the fermenting mesh, while the finished sake is separated from the non-fermented solids. A perfectly legal form for making a sake of very high quality.

**Polishing Grade of Rice: As a simple definition, the higher the polishing grade of the rice grains, which are used for brewing, the higher is the degree of the produced sake. For example, is the outer shell of rice grains for Junmai-shu and Honjozo Shu is peeled for 30%, so that about 70% of the original rice grain remain to produce the sakes.
The percentage of the polishing grade mentioned here are only the minimum requirements for brewing the particular sake type. Often the rice is polished more than is required according to the sake degree. For example, rice for Daiginjo-shu is often reduced to 35% of its original size, the 65% of its outer shell have been peeled off.