Sake | 5 Things You Need to Know
1. How to say it. (We’ve been getting it wrong for years.) Here’s the key: Sake rhymes with café – not hockey. That’s eh, not eee, repeat after me…
2. How to enjoy it. Surprise – finer grades of sake are not served hot but at either room temperature or slightly chilled. How often do you serve mulled wine?
3. What it is. Good question. It’s not ‘rice wine,’ or wine at all – sake is actually brewed like beer, made in breweries. With particular styles, it can be blended with higher alcohol spirits, which are not made with rice.
4. But It’s all about the rice. Sake is made from specially cultivated varieties of rice that undergo a vital milling process to remove a portion of the fattier, protein-rich outer shell of every single grain. This practice is highly regulated by Japanese law. The rice that makes certain premium sake categories (called Junmai or Honjozo) have at least 30% of its outer shell removed, which makes them 70% rice polish ratio.
5. Koji – the magic ingredient. This funky fungus of sorts is the great enabler. When combined with soaked, steamed rice, a mould culture forms with enzymes that convert the starches of the rice, into sugars. With the addition of yeast, those sugars will then ferment into alcohol. Yeasts also bring out certain aromatics in sake, such as notes of melon and fresh pear.