Is Sake Wine?Back to blog
Whilst you would probably answer yes, all is not as we may believe.
On National Wine Day it seems appropriate to know our wine from our Sake. So here we go…
Whilst we generally refer to sake as a particular style of wine, sake in Japanese actually means any alcoholic drink made from rice. So if you’re ordering sake in Japan you are literally asking for alcohol, which may well suit you! However, if you are after rice wine then we should be asking for ‘nihonshu‘.
So what is nihonshu? It’s a rice fermented wine served either hot, cold or at room temperature with as many varietals as the western wines we’re all familiar with. These styles range from the sweet low/no alcohol style of an Amazake to a barrel aged Taruzake with strong wood-like flavours.
You are probably most familiar with a Nigorizake or Nigori which is a cloudy style rice wine served chilled in most western restaurants.
Sake wine is made from a distilled mix of polished rice, water, yeast and Koji – a living food made from steamed rice and ‘Aspergillus oryzae’ mould. Keep in mind that your favourite cheese, yoghurts, kombucha and sauerkraut are all produced with living cultures. This combination is deemed to be Junmai or pure rice and has no additional additives.
On the other side is “non-pure” rice sake which will have additional ingredients such as sugar, brewers alcohol and other flavours. These are not inherently inferior styles to Junmai sake but just another variation.
The classification of rice wine is determined by the degree of polishing the kernel undergoes to reach the inner starchy layers. Premium sake wine is accepted as having a minimum of 30% of the kernel ground away.
With over 1800 brewers in Japan centred around the famous sake wine regions of Niigata, Kyoto and Kobe there is a lot of ground to cover in discovering your favourite styles and discerning between the quality wines.
If you want to get to know your ‘nihonshu’ a little better then head down to the Sake Festival 15th & 16th June at Tsunami ko, 18 Glyde Street, Mosman Park for a taste treat of over 50 different beverages including ‘sake’, plum wine and beer with a matsuri menu and Baeren chocolates available.
Free entry, tickets to tastings and further details for the weekend festival are available at the venue Here.