Traditional Japanese

What is Sake?


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Sake, traditional Japanese alcohol, is getting popular in Australia and you can see various brands of sake in Japanese restaurants. You might already have experienced drinking sake, but do you know what sake is? Even if you have no idea about sake, don’t worry. This blog will help you understand the basics of sake, and we’ll be referring to two articles, ‘What is Sake?’ and ‘What is Sake – Japanese Rice Wine?’.

1. The Definition of Sake

Sake is frequently translated into English as “Japanese rice wine”, and sake is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. Sake is defined under the Sake Tax Regulations, where there are two requirements to be classified as ‘sake’:

1. The alcohol percentage must be less than 22%.
2. Sake must be fermented with the three ingredients of rice, koji and water, and then pressed.

The Alcohol content in sake is 15-16% on average. In Japanese, “sake” just means alcohol in general, so there is actually a specific name in Japanese for what English speakers call sake, “nihonshu” (日本酒). Japanese commonly use the word when they refer to sake.

2. What is Sake made from?

As explained above, sake is only made from three basic ingredients. Rice used for sake, sake rice (sakamai), is different from the rice we normally eat. Water is also absolutely necessary. 80% of the ingredients is water, so the flavor and aroma change depending on the quality of water that sake breweries use. Koji is a type of mold, it helps in the fermentation process.

Other ingredients can and are added as additional flavours, however, these are the key ingredients.

3. What is the Relationship between Sake and Wine?

Sake and wine are categorized as fermented beverages, while other drinks like whisky are distilled, so the manufacturing processes of wine and sake are similar.

4. What is the Best Temperature to drink sake at?

It depends on the type of sake. It is often said light styles such as Ginjo and Dai-Ginjo should be served cold (6-10℃), but you can enjoy sake at various temperatures. This article gives suggestions for the ‘Best Temperature for Serving Sake’.

The best way to learn sake is to enjoy many kinds of sake. According to the National Tax Agency, there are over 1400 sake breweries in Japan. There are many kinds of sake I haven’t drunk or even seen. When you see sake in Japanese restaurants, try it and discover your favorite flavor and brands!

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