Taking a break from wines which we have been featuring for the past 10 weeks, we pick up from where we left off on our sake series in mid-December last year.
The moderately boozy ancient rice wine of Japan may be served hot, cold, or at room temperature. What’s to really like are the little cups you drink it out of because they are absolutely charming!
To chill or not to chill
As for the hot/cold conundrum, there is no hard-and-fast rule.
Some sake is at its best cold, while others taste perfect when warmed.
Many sake varieties taste great at different temperatures — as different temperatures draw out distinctive characteristics — which is why sake connoisseurs will encourage you to experiment for yourself.
The most important considerations are the particular sake in question and your own preferences. Do what tastes best to you. It’s no fun if you’re worried about whether what you’re doing is right or wrong.
However, the simple rule of thumb is that higher-quality sakes (when the rice has been milled down to 50% or under) should be served slightly chilled, while cheaper sakes should be warmed up. Cooler temperatures (45 degrees or so) allow the full flavour profile of the sake to emerge. A cheaper sake with a rougher flavour profile (think sweeter and fruitier) benefits from warmth because some of the off-notes are less easily discerned.
That being said, here are some general guidelines on cooling or warming sake:
Avoid extremes. Whether chilling or warming, don’t overdo it. Overheating and over-chilling can disrupt a sake’s particular flavours and aromas. Don’t chill it below 40 degrees or heat it above 115 and you won’t be doing it wrong.
Do not roughly put sake in a microwave or boil it directly on fire like you are boiling water! The right way is placing the tokkuri (ceramic flask for serving sake) filled with sake inside a pot of hot water. After several minutes, take the tokkuri out, pour the sake into cups and you are good to go!
For chilling, all you need to do is putting the bottle of sake in the fridge. The ideal temperature of alcohol ranges from 40 to 50 degrees. However, for Ginjo, you should cool it down to only 50 to 60 degrees. Any temperature lower than this will make the taste become too bland or bitter.
At the risk of overgeneralising, many sake experts say that ginjo and daiginjo sakes are usually best not warmed (since being served chilled enhances their flavours and aromas), while many junmai and honjozosakes do well either way (since warming these types of sakes tend to draw out their complex flavours and smooth them out a bit).
When sake is served at room temperature, it does not indicate any room temperature but average temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees.
For different types of sake, shop at aeclub.com.