The history of Sake exists as an important part of Japanese tradition and ceremony including everything from blessing a new home through to religious offerings. Its history dates back to 300 BC however in its present formula the 16th century signalled the current variant of this formidable top drop, which is a must try for the discerning drinker.
Much to the confusion of many westerners, Sake is neither wine nor beer. While like beer it is fermented to grain many will tell you that this traditional beverage is in a league of its own. Traditionally, quality Sake was heated gently to diminish bitterness and allow some of the less favourable scents to vaporize, leaving fresh, clean flavours. Today, all quality Sake is enjoyed chilled.
Sake begins with special short-grain sake rice that has been polished to remove some of its outer layers. The rice is fermented by a fungus, and simultaneously by yeast. It is usually aged for about six months.
Although the word Sake in Japanese means “alcoholic drink,” it has become internationally famous as a fermented rice beverage. While the production process is quite involved, the ingredients necessary to make it are simple: rice, water, koji and in certain styles brewer’s alcohol. Anything more is a sign of a lesser quality Sake.
We recommend that when ordering Sake that it is advisable to pay attention to the different classifications of sake, and order a different one each time, focusing on the characteristics of each. Look for unique elements.
For the food lover we can recommend the following in choosing a top of Japan’s prized sake drop:
- Light, less fragrant sake will go well with light food including vegetables, sashimi, oysters, citrus-flavoured dishes.
- Fragrant sake, matches well with equally fragrant and light food – herb salads, Vietnamese rice paper rolls, scallops, crab, white fish, fruit.
- Full-bodied, full-flavoured but less fragrant sake will match similarly full-flavoured food, like spicy pork belly, steak, tuna, cheese, fried potatoes.
- Aged sake – sweet, viscous, intense, full-bodied, matches well with aged cheeses, pate, spicy Sichuan cuisine, and other food with condensed flavours.
One of our top tips is to visit the area of Nada, where some of Japans most famous sake makers, make their mark. These small areas are lined with famous sake makers and some of them offer tours as well as free samples. Each of the breweries produces different flavours varying from sharp and dry to smooth and sweet.
Kyoto is also a highlight for sipping the sensation of sake. To the south of Kyoto lies Fushimi which is a famous centre of sake production. The name Fushimi literally translates as “underground water” which makes the area particularly fertile for Sake production.
The breweries of Nada or Kyoto exist as one of many of our tried and tested tips for those wishing to experience the rich flavours of this top Japanese drop, for the sake of great Sake.