Sake (Nihonshu) is a traditional Japanese beverage made from fermented rice. Contrary to what many people think, Japanese sake is not a strong drink. It is brewed just like beer and is fermented, not distilled. Alcohol content is between 5 and 18 degrees (usually 15-16°). Because of its softness and its great diversity, we can enjoy sake from apéritif to dessert, just like wine.
As soon as the word "Junmai" appears in the terminology, no alcohol has been added. This because "Jun" means pure & "Mai" means rice. We're talking about a sake that has reached its alcohol percentage through natural fermentation.
In cases where alcohol is added, this is just before filtration. The purpose of this is to enhance the flavour so that after filtering, the flavour is still there.
*= The brewer can decide to add the word "Tokubetsu" to mark the product as a special product from the brewery.
Note1: The word "Nigori" can be added for some types, this means the sake is not 100% filtered.
Note2: The word "Nama" can be added for some types, this means the sake is not pasteurized. (=draft)
Note 3: The word "Koshu" stands for an aged sake.
Note4: The word "Kimoto" stands for a brewing method: The yeast starter for Kimoto sake is mixed rhythmically using long paddles to combine yeast, water, rice and koji to form a mixture that naturally promotes the development of lactic acid. This is a very labour-intensive work that results in a more expressive sake.
Note5: The word "Muroka" stands for a sake that is not filtered with active carbon, but is separated from the sediment, which makes the sake clear.
Note6: The word "Genshu" means "not diluted". Normally each sake is diluted to achieve an alcohol percentage of around 15-16degrees.
• Chilled sake can be enjoyed in a wine glass or special sake glassware, serving 80-100ml.
• Warmed sake can be poured in the traditional porcelain cups (Shoko) and served with a porcelain decanter (Tokkuri).
Ginjo and Daiginjo types:
Aromatic premium sakes such as Ginjo and Daiginjo types are best enjoyed slightly chilled. Heating these delicate types of sake will result in an overpowering nose and after time, the sake will lose its best flavor characteristics.
Junmai, Honjozo and Futsushu types:
These sakes are the most versatile and may be served at any temperature between well-chilled and well-heated. Pay attention not to pass 55℃, the finer characteristics become indistinguishable and the sake assumes an overpowering alcohol odor.
Nama and/or sparkling types:
Obviously sparkling sake is served well chilled.
Same goes for Nama sake or unpasteurized sake. Translation fo the Japanese word “Nama” is living, meaning it is as fresh as it can be. It’s clear this sake needs to be transported cooled and consumed in a limited time.
Japanese sake is so ingrained in Japanese culture that there are specific names for each serving temperature: