Las claves para elegir un buen sake - DISEVIL

The keys to choosing a good sake

What is sake?

Sake is an alcoholic beverage made with rice, water, koji rice, and yeast. Something that few know is that the sake made in Japan is officially called Nihonshu .

The alcohol content of a sake is usually between 13% and 18%. At most it can reach 21% , but if it exceeds that percentage of alcohol content it can no longer be considered sake.

The origins of sake date back more than 2,500 years ago when rice cultivation was widespread in Japan.

What are the types of sake?

There are different types of sake and it is important to know them to be able to appreciate their differences since they directly affect their type of flavor.

Firstly, sakes are classified as Junmai or No Junmai . Junmai means that NO alcohol has been added , but rather that the alcohol present in the sake is the alcohol obtained from fermentation. When “Junmai” is not specified in the name of a sake, it means that there is extra alcohol added.

And the second classification is based on the percentage of polishing that has been applied to the rice. The polishing process has a great influence on the final flavor of the sake, as we will explain in more detail in the section dedicated to polishing.

Based on these two criteria, the classification of sake would be as follows:

Honjozo: sake made with polished rice between 70% and 61%.

Ginjo: sake made with 60% to 51% polished rice.

Daiginjo: sake made with polished rice between 50% or less of its original weight and using very expensive and labor-intensive fermentation methods.

Ginjo and Daiginjo sakes are considered the highest expression of the art of fermentation.

In addition to this classification we can see that there are other nomenclatures that are added to sake, such as Genshu or Tokubetsu.

Tokubetsu can be translated as “special.” This adjective can only be added to Honjozo or Junmai sake that can be considered “special” (Tokubetsu) for some reason. For example, they use a special variety of rice or have a slightly superior rice polishing.

Genshu means that the sake has been bottled with the natural alcohol content obtained after fermentation, without diluting it with water afterwards.

So Akashi-Tai Junmai Daiginjo Genshu sake means that it is a sake from the “Akashi-Tai” brewer, to which no alcohol has been added (Junmai), which has been made with 50% or less polished rice (Daiginjo). and whose alcoholic level is the result of the fermentation process (Genshu).

Why is rice polished?

Rice grains are polished to eliminate fats and proteins and expose the center of the grain, which is where the starch is found. The polishing process has a great influence on the final taste of sake . In general, the more the rice is polished, the more fat and protein is removed and the cleaner and fruitier the sake is. On the contrary, the less the rice is polished, the more body and rice flavor the sake has.

It must be considered that the more the rice is polished, the more rice is required to make the sake and, therefore, the more expensive the sake becomes. In general, about 225 grams are used to make a 72 cl bottle of sake. of rice.

The key to the flavor, as we have said, is in the polishing of the rice and not so much in the type of rice used. However, in all the product sheets of the Akashi-Tai premium brand sakes, the types of rice used have been specified. For example, Gohyakumangoku or Yamadanishiki rice.

How is sake made?

The making of sake has more in common with the making of beer than with wine or a spirit.

The only difference with beer is that since rice does not contain the enzymes of barley, an ingredient needs to be added that will convert the starch into sugar. This ingredient is koji rice , which consists of steamed rice plus Koji mushroom (Koji-Kin). When this fungus is combined with rice, enzymes are generated that break down the starch in the rice and convert it into sugar; and in parallel the sugar into alcohol.

Koji is very present in the preparation of Japanese foods. For example, koji is also used to make soy sauce.

What does sake pair with?

Sake pairs with a wide variety of foods . The pairing principles of sake are very similar to those of wine. That is, complex sake with complex dishes because sake can highlight and reinforce the flavor of the food, prolonging the experience.

Sake can also be used to eliminate the aftertaste of food and refresh the mouth. For example, sakes with higher acidity can be used with oily foods. In all the product sheets of the Akashi-Tai premium brand sakes, the ideal pairings for each sake have been specified.

How to serve sake?

There is a belief that sake should be served hot to enhance its aromas. Depends. As a general rule, the fruitiest sakes such as Ginjo and Daiginjo are served cold and in a glass glass. On the other hand, Junmai and Honjozo, which are earthier and more flavorful, can be heated and served in the typical small ceramic bowls.

We hope that these concepts will be useful for you to get started in the exciting world of sake. As a summary, we leave you a graph that shows the world production of different types of sake. As you can see, the sake that is produced the most, at 63%, is table sake. Any bottle that is only labeled as "sake", without further ado, is table sake. When concepts like those seen above already appear on the label, then we are already talking about premium sakes.

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