This information is all you need to find the right sake for your palate.
Even if all sake is made with the same basic process, there are so many types of sake that – to keep things simple – we will focus only on some major classifications and types. This information is all you need to find the right sake for your palate.
We can classify sake into pure rice style and alcohol added style. There are also special sake and special designation sake.
PURE RICE SAKE
Pure rice style is made from rice, water and koji, with no additives used in the process.
Based on the polishing ratio, there are three main pure rice sake types:
Junmai is the original Japanese sake. It contains pure unmodified sake, with no extra alcohol added to it and may contain rice that has been polished down to 70% (30% of the grain has been removed).
This sake is tasty and usually heavier and richer than other sake, with a higher level of acidity. It can be particularly nice when served warm or at room temperature.
Junmai is an important term in the world of sake, as it separates pure rice sake from non-pure rice sake.
Unless a bottle of sake has the word “junmai”, which will be written in Japanese as 純米, it will have added alcohol and/or other additives.
Additives such as distilled alcohol are used by skilled brewers to change and enhance flavours and aromas, producing some very smooth and easy-to-drink sake.
ALCOHOL ADDED SAKE
Ginjo features highly milled rice. The grain of rice used has been polished down to 60% (40% of the grain has been removed).
This premium sake is made with a special type of yeast, and fermentation occurs at low temperatures. The result is often a light, fruity, and complex flavour that is usually quite fragrant. Ginjo is easy to drink and often served chilled.
Sake like Saito Ginjo Aged is aged with alcohol added.
Daiginjo is basically Ginjo sake, but it is made with rice that has been polished down to a minimum of 50%, resulting in a sake that has a full body and a delicate taste.
This super premium sake is regarded by many as the pinnacle of the brewer’s art. It requires precise brewing methods.
Daiginjo sake is often relatively pricey and usually served chilled to bring out its complex flavours and aromas.
This alcohol added style sake has a very small portion of distilled alcohol added to it during fermentation, giving it a light and subtle flavour with a drier taste. The rice used in making Honjozo is polished down to 70% (30% of the grain has been removed).
Honjozo sake is easy to drink and can be enjoyed either warm or chilled.
Genshu refers to sake that has not been diluted and therefore has a bolder flavour.
Sake is normally between 15% and 17% alcohol, with Genshu sake having the highest alcohol content – between 18% and 20%.
Most sake is pasteurised twice: once just after brewing, and again before shipping. Namazake is unique because it is unpasteurised, and as such, it has to be refrigerated to be kept fresh. Kept at a warm temperature, its flavour and aroma will change.
Namazake can be any type of sake, including Junmai and Ginjo. It often has a fresh, fruity flavour with a sweet aroma.
Nigorizake (or simply nigori)
This sake is coarsely filtered or unfiltered, resulting in a cloudy drink with very small bits of rice floating around in it.
Nigorizake is usually sweet and creamy and can range from silky smooth to thick and chunky.
Although sake is not generally aged like wine, it is usually aged for around six months or more for the flavours to mellow out. However, shiboritate goes directly from the presses into the bottles and out to the market.
Shiboritate sake tends to be wild and fruity, and some drinkers even say it is akin to white wine. You either love it or hate it!
This is a rather modern sake. It usually involves bottling up the sake during the fermentation process which results in a build-up of bubbles.
SPECIAL DESIGNATION SAKE
Junmai, Ginjo, Daiginjo and Honjozo, which were highlighted above, along with Junmai Ginjo and Junmai Daiginjo are collectively known as “special designation sake” and are “premium sake”.
Ginjo, Daiginjo, Junmai Ginjo and Junmai Daiginjo can be considered “super-premium sake”.
Special designation sake constitutes only about 20% of all sake produced.
What’s a good sake choice?
For novices and seasoned drinkers alike, you can’t go wrong with Junmai, a premium sake that is usually smooth and therefore, easier to drink.
Even better news is the irresistible Buy 2 Saito Junmai Ginjo Genshu and Get 1 Free deal that is currently available at AE Club until 30 November 2020 or while stock lasts.
Shop now, stay home, stay safe, and enjoy your sake which will be delivered to your doorstep!