Are you looking to try traditional Japanese sake? Like any good wine, beer or other drink, you want to make sure the sake you drink comes from the best source — especially if it's your first time trying it.
When you want the highest quality of domestically brewed sake or Japanese sake for your dinner pairing, special occasion or personal taste development, trust Takara Sake USA.
Sake is made of polished rice, pure water, starch-converting enzymes called koji and yeast. Sake (or seishu) is the American term for "nihonshu," or Japanese rice wine, and it is an essential part of Japanese lifestyle and culture. Today, with its versatile taste profile, sake is recognized worldwide, and it can be paired with many different types of cuisines.
Although sake is brewed with grain — like beer — its flavor is more similar to wine. Unlike other alcohols, however, sake tastes best when it's fresh. Sake is aged before it's bottled, and it’s at its best if it is consumed within one year when unopened, or within a week once opened.
Sake is made by fermenting rice with koji — a mold spore microbe — and yeast with the purest of water. The rice must be polished and washed first. After multiple parallel (dual) fermentations — saccharization by koji and fermentation by yeast happens simultaneously — in a main mash, the sake will be pressed, filtered, pasteurized and aged for three to six months before it's bottled.
Types of Sake
Like other alcohols, sake comes in a variety of types that exhibit different characteristics — from full-bodied and rich to fragrant and dry. ake is categorized based on its rice polishing ratio and use of brewer’s alcohol. In addition, the specific production method or specific characteristic of sake determine the types of sake as well. Varieties of sake include but are not limited to:
- Junmai: Meaning "pure rice," Junmai sake is made only of rice, water, koji and sake yeast – with no brewer’s alcohol added. It offers a full-bodied, umami rich and somewhat acidic flavor.
- Tokubetsu Junmai: Also known as “Special Junmai” sake, this variety uses highly polished rice (60% or less) and utilizes sake-specific rice or some other special production method. It has a great balance and complexity.
- Junmai Ginjo: This style is characterized by a bright aroma, fruity tastes and delicate body. Technically classified as sake made from rice with a polishing ratio of 60% and employing a special process including lower temperature fermentation and special strains of yeast. The term “Junmai” is used to differentiate between “pure rice” ginjo sake and ginjo sake made with brewer’s alcohol.
- Junmai Daiginjo: This sake variety’s name means “great ginjo.” It uses rice polished down to at least 50% and is considered the highest grade due to its labor intensive process, premium ingredients and methodology. Sake can only be labeled as “Junmai” when pure rice daiginjo sake is brewed without addition of brewer’s alcohol.
- Nama: Using micro-filtering instead of pasteurizing, this "raw, draft sake" is fresh and fruity in flavor.
- Nigori: Bold and sweet with a milky look, the name of this unfiltered or roughly filtered sake means "cloudy."
- Genshu: Undiluted with water and retaining an alcohol percentage of around 19, this variety of sake has a full-bodied, rich flavor.
How to Drink Sake
Wondering what the best way is to drink sake and what you should serve it with? The answer depends on the type of sake you buy. The full-bodied traditional Junmai type sake can be served at room temperature or warmed, while newer types of sake made with highly polished rice, such as Junmai Ginjo and Junmai Daiginjo, taste best chilled. The traditional Junmai type sake pairs well with meats as well as rich and full-flavored dishes. Junmai Ginjo and Junmai Daiginjo are best alone or paired with delicately seasoned dishes.
Note that if the sake is made with added brewer’s alcohol, the sake is called simply Ginjo or Daiginjo without the word “Junmai.”
Sake wine is versatile, and while some types pair excellent with most meats, others are ideal for seafood and fish. In addition, sake behaves differently according to the style of vessel it’s served in along with its serving temperature and the type of food you are pairing with. On each of our product pages, we have provided taste profile information for your reference which includes the type of sake, its description, the suggested serving temperature, suggested food pairings and wine comparisons.
When you serve sake, keep it classy with a ceramic cup, glass cup or wine glass, and be sure to savor the aroma. Drink sake just like you would a glass of wine, and in the company of friends or family, it's polite to always pour sake for each other — pouring and receiving sake while spending time together with great company is the most memorable of all. Kampai!
Where to Buy Sake
When you're wondering where to buy sake, Takara Sake USA offers you the finest options in America. Made with pure snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the highest quality of rice from the Sacramento Valley, our varieties of sake blend Japanese tradition with modern technology. Taste tradition with a trend-setting twist. Browse our products and purchase online today, or visit our sake shop, tasting room and sake museum in California.