Registered: May 2002
Posts: 4131


I will now share with you all that I learned in my sake class the week before last.

Please note that as the evening wore on I took sketchier and more difficult to read notes.

'Sake' in Japanese is roughly equivalent to 'liquor' – it does not refer specifically to rice wine (which is called nihonshu).

Originally, sake was prepared by spitting chewed rice into a bowl – chewing allowed starches in rice to break down into sugar, which would then ferment by the action of naturally occurring airborne yeasts.

Most sake was made by wealthy landowners who owned the rice paddies. When merchant classes began producing it, heavy taxes were levied. Landowning vampires.

In the 1900s, a very coarse sake was brewed in cedar casks – it was served hot to mask the harsh flavor. Sake served hot in restaurants today is of inferior quality. Be sure to turn your nose up at people who drink their sake hot, and to vigorously deny ever having preferred it that way yourself.

The importance of water was discovered by accident by a brewer who noted that sake made at one of his distilleries was consistently better than that made at another, even though both used the same rice – when he imported water he found that he produced equally good sake at both sites.

1904, yeast strains were numbered, 1 – 15, 1 – 6 are no longer used.

During world war II, rice shortages led to the sale of other alcohols as sake, which continued until the 60's.

In the 70's, jizake (microbreweries) took off. Large breweries produce 1000's of gallons, small ones as few as 6-10, costing hundreds of dollars per bottle.

Recently, as the traditionally male toji (brewers) begin to die off and their offspring refuse to take up the family business in favor of moving to Tokyo to become DJs, women are being allowed in, some of whom make light, floral, elegant sake.

Usually 16 % alcohol, but some sakes are served at 'cask strength' upwards of 20%. Some sakes are filtered and clear, others are more rustic, particulate, milky.

Ingredients: rice, yeast, water (sometimes brewer's alcohol, sugars, acid – these in inferior sake).

Rice types (all with suffix –nishiki) all have their own distinct characteristics. Omachi, yamada, miyama (masculine). Rice is always milled. Milling rice removes impurities, but raises price as product is lost. Unmilled rice is short, round, cracked, yellow. Milled is a tiny bead shape, white/clear, smooth.

Levels of milling: honjozu 70%, junmai, ginjo 60%, daiginjo 50%, some down to as little as 35%

7, 9, and 10 are most used yeasts
7= user friendly
9= big & floral

Softer water produce more delicate sake.

Nobu restaurant serves a sake known as yk35, which is a key to the formula used for that wine: y for rice variety, yimanonishiki
k for yeast #9 (9 in japanese is 'ku')
35 for milled to 35%

Geographic factors: Mountainous regions tend to produce heavier sake, which pairs well with the heavier, meat-based diet in that region. Coastal regions produce light sake to go with fish-based diet. Colder regions enable greater yeast stability and thus better sake.

Regional Differences:

Kyoto: elegant
Shimane: robust
Niigata: premium sakes that are clean, light, elegant
Ehime: dessert sake
Hirosha: famous for soft water & delicate wines

General Info:
Sake should be stored & served cold, and is good for 10 days after opening.

Vintage sake is not normally desirable. Sake is made in winter, held till fall, and should be drunk same year it is released.

Some sakes are aged, can be gamy.

From: greg
To: cold bacon
Date: Wednesday, June 21, 2006 1:42 PM

Here's the deal. The best sake is made with the very best rice, the very best Japanese rice, cultivated by a dwindling group of little old people who farm some pretty expensive tracks of land on one of the overpopulated islands. They take this very best rice at $10-$20 per kilo and wash it and wash it and wash it until the outside of the rice grain dissolves away, leaving only about 10% at the core. Distill this rice grain bit, ship it to a country where the currency is worthless relative to the yen in a refrigerated container and add mark-ups for the distributors and stores - presto, really expensive sake.

But is is soo good. My favorites are daiginjo (really, really, really, really expensive) and jyunmai (just very expensive).

Wine      Home