SAKE- wine or not wine.
SAKE- the traditional Japanese art of rice wine
Before knowing about SAKE, I used to drink it in Japanese or Pan Asian restaurants served warm from traditional small ceramic glasses. Now I request it to be served in wine glass in order to allow the drink to show off its flavors. There is even sparkling sake. I chose it for a dinner with my friends and it proved to be a very enjoyable companion. For cocktail lovers I just found out that in Brazil it was developed a mix of sake, star fruit and ice served as the japanese version of caipirina. But sake was not always as it is today.
By Olimpia Pleșa Brandhuber
SAKE is Japan’s national drink made and consumed all across the country since long. It has developed with Japan culture. The traditional one, named nowadays “table sake”- have changed in the last decades. It became an elaborated drink made in a large varietey to serve modern consumers taste and prefferences and to line with what we name wine – even though sake is not wine. Sake is made from rice, polished at different ratio, steamed, enzymes and yeasts added and fermented. The rice is sourced in different places in Japan from different climate therefore the sake will have its own individuality- terroir- depending on the region it comes from.
What is SAKE? A fermented beverage made out of polished rice. Rice polishing refers to shaving the outer surface of the rice grains to remove proteins, fats and minerals that cause undesirable flavors to sake. It is not rice table that is used but a special rice with bigger grains which is low in proteins and it has a large core named shimpaku.
The degree of how much the surface of the rice is polished away has an important effect on the character of the sake. There are 3 types: JUNMAI polished 70%. GINJO polished about 60%, DAIGINJO polished so that 35%-50% of the core remains. The result is a fruity, flowery, delicate and sophisticated sake. The most polished the lower ratio and the lighter taste.
How is SAKE made? An enzyme – named koji- is added to the steamed polished rice to start up transformation of starch into glucose. In parallel yeast is added to start up fermentation of glucose into alcohol. Sake reach 16- 18 % alcohol but some producers, luckyly, choose to stop fermentation to get a lower alcohol sake with more residual sugar. Sake is brewed as beer and than fermented. The factories are named breweries.
Yes, there are similarities with wine.
Sake is a fermented drink which comes in different styles or types: fruity and aromatic, delicate or rich and complex in aromas, light and full bodied, young and aged.
Different to wine, sake has more alcohol, much less acidity, much less minerality, much less astringency, much less bitterness, more sweetness, much more umami.
UMAMI has come to be recognized as the “ fifth taste” apart of sour, sweet, salt and bitter and is sometimes described as savoriness. The sensation of umami comes from amino acids created when koji enzymes break down proteins that is why sake is richer in umami than wine or beer. This is the reason sake goes well with oysters. It helps eliminate the metallic flavor of the oyster and makes it more delicate and umami driven with a sort of honeydew finish at the end. It is a great combination with raw fish and caviar,vinegar, bitter vegetables or soups. With cheese works excellent due to amino acid content in both. Aged sake is a good match with blue cheese.
How to enjoy SAKE ? As I am a wine drinker with obsession for elegant glasses, I find it better served in a wine glass. Traditionally it is consumed from small ceramic or wooden cups and can be enjoyed at many different temperatures under the body temperature. But the good ones are better at lower temperature, similar to white wine.
Sake is a beverage with rich history and cultural significance. Same as sushi, it is part of the world diversity. Dare to experience. There is no place for comparison. Be open to understand it and enjoy it. Kampai!japan culture, opiacelebratechampagne, rice wine, sake, sparkling sake