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Learn about Rice

About Sake'

What are the ingredients of sake'?
It's made primarily from rice and water interacting with microbes known as koji and sake' yeast.

More precisely, only highly polished rice is used. The use of highly polished rice has a significant effect on the quality of the sake'.

What variety of rice is used to make sake'?
Japanese rice can be roughly classified into two varieties. The first, the ordinary table rice commonly used for eating, encompasses a number of sub-varieties, depending on the manner of cultivation and the region in which it is grown. The second variety, Sakamai, is used exclusively for sake' production.

Ordinary table rice can also be used to make sake', but, ingeneral, sake' made from Sakamai has a higher reputation for quality.

Sakamai not only features larger, softer grains than ordinary table rice, but it's also more expensive, since it grows only in certain areas and requires more complex cultivation techniques.

How is sake' made?
Although sake' is also defined as a brewed alcoholic beverage, the brewing process is more complex than that employed for beer and wine.

In the wine production process, the crushed grapes ferment naturally after yeast is added. In the case of beer, similarly, fermentation takes place after yeast and hot water are added to crushed malt. But the rice used to make sake' does not begin to ferment with the addition of yeast alone.

Sake' brewing begins with the introduction of koji, which break down rice starch into glucose in a process known as "saccharification." Next, sake' yeast is added and fermentation begins. This process, in which saccharification and fermentation take place in the same vat at the same time, is called "multiple parallel fermentation."

This is a unique feature of sake' brewing that distinguishes it from every other brewing process.

Koje' are clearly critical to sake' making, but what are they exactly?
Koje' are microbes, similar to those used in blue cheese production, that are good for the health. Shoyu (soy sauce) and miso (soy bean paste) are also produced using similar beneficial microbes.

What are the main characteristics of the taste of sake'?
The longer fermentation process - which can be as much as three to four times that of wine - produces a wide variety of amino acids, giving sake' a balanced, rounded taste and fresh flavor.

How long have the Japanese people been drinking sake'?
The Japanese began producing sake' sometime after the introduction of wet rice cultivation in the third century B.C. The first written record of sake' being drunk in Japan dates from about 300 A.D.

In ancient Japan, sake' production was confined primarily to the imperial court and to large temples and shrines. That's why sake' is often associated with religious rituals and festivals. Even today, sake' is always served at traditional ceremonies in Japan.

What is the alcohol content of sake'?
The alcohol content of sake' normally ranges from 14 to 15%. A new type of sake' with a lower alcohol content in the 8-10% range has also been developed recently in response to the growing preference among consumers for "lighter" sake'.

If sake' contains no preservatives, how should we store the bottle to maintain its quality?
Since sake' is an extremely delicate alcoholic beverage that is especially sensitive to heat and light, it must be stored in a cool, dark place. Refrigeration is recommended. Exposing sake' to sunlight can change its taste as well as its color.

Exposure to air can reduce the quality of sake' over time. This means that once you have opened a bottle, it's best to finish it fairly soon.

Should sake' be drunk hot or cold?
You can drink it either way. It's also perfectly acceptable to drink it at room temperature.

The ideal temperature range for sake' also varies depending on the type of sake' in question. Flavorful sake' and light, smooth sake' taste better served chilled, for example.

Are special glasses or cups required for serving sake'?
No, there's no special rule for serving sake'. However, many Japanese prefer to drink sake' from china or wooden cups.

Is it possible to use sake' in cocktails?
Yes, the various flavors and tastes of sake' enable it to mix well with fruit juices and liqueurs.


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