Our partners at Edward International import some of the finest Sake from Japan. The production of local Sake breweries is generally limited, however the quality is exceptional. Sake is a great addition to any menu pairing or just an easy drink to enjoy after work.
Only 20% or so of all sake can be labeled quality sake. The main determining factor is the polish of the rice, the greater the polish or milling then the higher the quality. Alcohol can be added to quality sake (Less than 10% of the weight of rice used) but it is only added to increase aromatics and refine the taste. Hence the two styles of quality sake:
Junmai: No added alcohol
Honjozo: Alcohol has been added.
The rice polish is noted by the terms ginjo and daiginjo. A ginjo sake has had at least 40% of the rice grain polished away. A daiginjo has had at least 50% of the rice grain polished away. A regular Junmai or Honjozo will have been polished to remove 30% of the outside layer of grain.
Bulk sake generally does not meet the polishing requirements, and also will have water and alcohol added to increase volume rather than flavor. These can be compared to basic table wines and some can be rather good, but more often than not are best served heated.
Junmai: Rice only or pure; no adding of distilled alcohol
Honjozo: Small amount of distilled alcohol is added
Ginjo: Highly milled rice. Minimum 40% polish
Daiginjo: Even more highly milled rice. Min 50% polish
Nama-zake: Refers to sake that is NOT pasteurized.
Nigori: Sake that is roughly filtered
Genshu: Undiluted sake
Tokubetsu: Premium or Reserve
Toji: Head brewer
Taruzake: Sake aged in cedar
Until 30 or 40 years ago sake was generally a fuller and rougher drink than it is now and was sweeter than it is now. Those types of sake are best served warm. However most quality modern sake should be served slightly chilled similar to a fine white wine. Most of the top quality sake you drink will actually benefit from being drunk from a white wine glass. The subtle aromatics and delicate nuances can be lost when drunk from a small clay vessel. A good wine glass magnifies the aromas and allows for better appreciation.
Sake contains no gluten and no sulfites which of course makes it good for you!!
Sake can be paired very easily with all sorts of dishes. Fish is usually the obvious choice, however cheese, pasta and lighter chicken and pork dishes work very well alongside good sake.
Good sake should have a clean refreshing taste with a slight sweetness. The finish should be short and not linger too long on the palate. It will drink easily. Poorly made sake or sake which has gone bad will be rather cloying, be very harsh with a lack of balance, and have a rough aftertaste.
Sake should be stored in a cool environment, or kept refrigerated. Direct sunlight or bright, warm storage conditions will destroy the flavor and aroma. Sake becomes noticeably darker when exposed to sunlight. A tan or reddish color will indicate that the sake has been exposed to too much sunlight. Except for a few exceptions sake is not made for aging and should be drunk when fresh.