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ALCOHOLS - Sake

Explore the elegance and diversity of Japanese sake, an ancestral drink very present in Japanese culture, thanks to our exclusive selection. With more than 400 aromatic components, twice as many as in wine, sake is a drink of exceptional complexity and finesse.

Amateur, first time or curious, discover our three selections: tasting, discovery and curiosity. Each has its varieties, its subtle flavors and its traditions which make sake an ancient art.

FAQ

hosing a sake can be as complicated as choosing a wine, because there are so many styles, tastes and price ranges to choose from. Here are a few steps to help you choose the sake that's right for you:

Understand the types of sake:

Junmai: a pure sake made only from rice, water, yeast and koji (a fungus that aids fermentation).

Honjozo: a sake similar to Junmai, but with a slight addition of alcohol to improve flavor and aroma.

Ginjo and Daiginjo: premium sakes that use rice polished to a higher degree, producing a sweeter, more aromatic sake.

Nigori: unfiltered sake that is thick and milky, with a sweet taste and creamy texture.

Sakes can also be differentiated by their manufacturing technique:

Modern sakes: very expressive on the nose, often with flattering fruity and floral notes. They should not be heated, otherwise these volatile aromas may be lost.

Traditional sakes: these are generally more acidic, as the emphasis is more on the fermentation process than with modern sakes.

Sparkling sake: a very recent arrival on the market, sparkling sake is much appreciated raw or as a complement to fruit liqueurs such as Yuzushu or Umeshu. They are often light in alcohol, with fruity and floral notes.

Decide on the level of sweetness and dryness: the degree of sweetness and dryness of a sake can vary considerably. Common descriptions include "dry" (karakuchi), "semi-dry" (chukan), and "sweet" (amakuchi). Choose according to your personal preferences.

Explore flavor characteristics: sake flavors also vary according to the region of production and the type of rice used. Some may have fruity, floral, umami or even nutty notes. Read the descriptions on the label, or ask a sake expert for advice, to find flavors that suit your tastes.

Consider serving temperature: sake can be enjoyed hot, at room temperature or cold, depending on the type of sake and your preferences. For example, Ginjo and Daiginjo sake are often served cold to enhance their delicate fragrances, while Junmai and Honjozo sake are generally consumed at room temperature or slightly warmed.

Try different sakes: the best way to find the sake that's right for you is to explore and try different types and brands. Organize a sake tasting to compare flavors and discover your own preferences. Occasionally, try a nice bottle of Nishiki!

Keep in mind that your choice of sake will ultimately depend on personal preference and price, so don't hesitate to experiment and discover new flavors and pairings! At iRASSHAi, to simplify your shopping, we offer three selections: tasting, discovery and curiosity, for amateurs and the curious!

The alcohol content of sake varies according to the type of sake and the manufacturing process. In general, sake has an alcohol content of between 14% and 20% alcohol by volume (ABV). However, there are different categories of sake, each with a slightly different alcohol content:

Junmai: these sakes are between 15% and 16%. They are often considered "light" sake.

Honjozo: Honjozo sakes have a slightly higher alcohol content, generally around 16% to 17%. They are characterized by a small amount of alcohol added to enhance flavor and aroma.

Ginjo and Daiginjo: these premium sakes are known for their slightly higher alcohol content, which can reach 18% to 20%. They are often appreciated for their delicate tastes and complex fragrances.

Nigori: Nigori sakes, which are unfiltered and have a milky texture, generally range from 14% to 20%, depending on the producer and style.

It's important to note that the alcohol content of sake can vary from brand to brand and bottle to bottle, depending on the manufacturing process and the brewer's preferences. Most sake bottles indicate this information on the label, allowing you to choose a sake with the alcohol level that suits your preferences. Sake's serving temperature can also influence the perception of its alcohol level, as it may seem warmer or cooler depending on how it is enjoyed (cold, ambient or hot).

Sake, sometimes called "rice wine", "nihonshu" or "seishu", is a traditional Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. Sake production in Japan is a complex process combining elements of brewing and fermentation. Here are the main steps involved in making sake:

1. Selection of ingredients: the first step is to choose high-quality basic ingredients. The rice used for sake is generally specially grown for this beverage and is called "sakamai" (sake rice), then there are sub-categories such as Yamadanishiki, the highest-quality sake rice, which gives rise to the typical Nishiki appellation. Next, it's important to choose specific yeast strains and pure spring water.

2. Rice polishing: the rice is carefully polished to remove the fat and protein-rich outer layers, leaving only the core starch. The more polished the rice, the more refined the sake. Polishing levels vary according to the type of sake produced.

3. Washing and soaking: the rice is washed several times to remove dust and excess starch. It is then soaked in water to hydrate it before cooking.

4. Rice cooking: the rice is steamed to activate the starch. The way in which the rice is cooked may vary according to the style of sake to be produced.

5. Koji preparation: koji is a fungus (aspergillus oryzae) grown on part of the polished rice. It is responsible for converting rice starch into sugar. Koji is crucial for subsequent fermentation.

6. Fermentation: cooked rice is mixed with koji and water to form rice paste. This paste is then fermented in several stages. First, as with beer, an initial fermentation takes place in large vats. Next, water, rice and fresh koji are added in several stages to encourage further fermentation. Fermentation can last several weeks.

7. Pressing: after fermentation, the resulting liquid is pressed to separate the sake from the solid residue. Traditionally, this is done using canvas bags, but more modern methods use hydraulic presses.

8. Pasteurization: Sake can be pasteurized to kill any remaining bacteria and yeast. However, some sakes are not pasteurized, which gives them a fresher taste and different characteristics.

9. Aging: Sake can be aged for a period ranging from a few months to several years, depending on the type of sake.

10. Filtration and blending: Sake can be filtered to remove impurities and then blended with water to achieve the desired alcohol content.

11. Bottling: the sake is finally bottled and ready for consumption.

Sake production is a combination of art and science, with many regional variations and styles of sake. The manufacturing process can vary considerably from brewery to brewery, producing a wide range of different tastes and aromas.

The alcohol content of sake varies according to the type of sake and the manufacturing process. In general, sake has an alcohol content of between 14% and 20% alcohol by volume (ABV). However, there are different categories of sake, each with a slightly different alcohol content:

Junmai: these sakes have an alcohol content of around 15% to 16%. They are often considered "light" sake.

Honjozo: Honjozo sakes have a slightly higher alcohol content, generally around 16% to 17%. They are characterized by a small amount of alcohol added to enhance flavor and aroma.

Ginjo and Daiginjo: these premium sakes are known for their slightly higher alcohol content, which can reach 18% to 20%. They are often appreciated for their delicate aromas and complex flavors.

Nigori: unfiltered and milky in texture, Nigori sake generally has an alcohol content of between 14% and 20%, depending on the producer and style.

It's important to note that the alcohol content of sake can vary from brand to brand and bottle to bottle, depending on the manufacturing process and the brewer's preferences. Most sake bottles indicate their alcohol content on the label, allowing you to choose a sake with the level of alcohol that suits your preferences. Sake's serving temperature can also influence the perception of its alcohol content, as it may seem warmer or cooler depending on how it is served (cold, room temperature or hot).

The word nihonshudo is composed of the Japanese terms nihonshu, meaning sake, and do, which translates as degree. It is a scale that measures the density of sake in relation to the density of water. A positive value indicates that the sake is dry, while a negative value suggests a sweeter sake.

Sake density is determined by the rice fermentation process. The yeast (Kōji) used in this stage breaks down the starch in the rice into alcohol and sugar. At the end of this process, the residual amount of sugar, which is very dense, determines the average density of the beverage. A high residual sugar content gives sake a negative nihonshudo, as in the case of nigori sake, for example, which can have an alcohol content of less than -10, while low residual sugar content results in light, dry sake, commonly with an alcohol content of over 16%.

Historically, a sake as dense as water and therefore with a nihonshudo of 0 was considered neutral, but the evolution of consumer tastes towards drier sakes has shifted the cursor from neutrality to values around +2 to +3. It's important to note that, although nihonshudo is a good indicator of a sake's sweetness, other factors can influence your perception, notably its acidity.

Nihonshudo is indicated on most sake bottles, either in the language of the importing country, or by localizing the Japanese term 日本酒度.

Also known as Sake Meter Value (SMV), it is measured at the brewery using a densimeter. Zero corresponds to the density of water at 4°C. It is influenced by two factors

- alcohol content: a higher-alcohol sake will tend towards more positive values

- sugar content: a sweeter sake will be denser and will tend towards negative nihonshudo values.

The presence of sake in Japanese temples is linked to cultural, religious and ritual practices deeply rooted in Japanese history. Here are just some of the reasons why sake is associated with temples in Japan:

Offerings to deities: As part of Shinto and Buddhist religious rituals, sake is often offered to deities as a sign of respect and gratitude. This offering is a way of praying for protection, prosperity and blessings from the gods.

Religious ceremonies and festivals: Japan's temples regularly hold religious ceremonies and festivals involving the use of sake. In Shintoism, for example, the purification ritual known as "kagami biraki" involves breaking a large barrel of sake, symbolizing the start of a new phase or undertaking.

Community gatherings: Temples are often gathering places for the local community. Social gatherings and celebrations held in temples can include the consumption of sake as a festive beverage to strengthen community ties.

Matrimonial traditions: Sake plays an important role in traditional Japanese weddings. The bride and groom exchange cups of sake to symbolize their union and mutual commitment.

Funeral rituals: Sake can also be used in certain funeral rituals to honor and pray for the souls of the deceased.

Financial support for temples: Temples often rely on donations from the local community for their financial support. Sake sales at festivals and other events can help finance temple activities.

Cultural transmission: The presence of sake in temples is an integral part of Japanese culture and history, and its transmission to future generations. It perpetuates traditions and customs that go back centuries.

It is important to note that the consumption of sake in a religious context is generally carried out in a respectful and symbolic manner. Sake is considered a sacred beverage in these contexts, and its significance goes beyond its simple use as an alcoholic beverage.

Tasting sake is a refined experience that involves several steps to fully appreciate its fragrances. Here's how to enjoy sake at home or in a restaurant, as well as the tasting notes commonly associated with this beverage:

Steps for tasting sake :

Choice of glasses: Use traditional sake glasses, called "ochoko," or white wine glasses to appreciate the aromas.

Temperature: Sake can be served hot or cold. Both are recommended depending on the type of sake. Light, mild sake is often served chilled, while full-bodied sake can be served at room temperature or slightly warmed.

Observation: Examine the sake visually. Observe its color, clarity and brightness. Sake can be as clear as water, or have a golden, amber or even slightly pink hue.

Olfaction: Gently bring your nose close to the glass to smell the fragrances. Gently swirl the liquid to release more olfactory molecules. Try to identify olfactory notes, such as fruit, flowers, herbs or spices.

Tasting: Take a sip of sake, leave it in your mouth and pass it over your palate to appreciate the different aromas, just as you would with beer, wine, rum or whisky. Note the mouthfeel, sweetness, acidity and bitterness.

Retro-olfaction: After swallowing or spitting out the sake, take a few moments to perceive the fragrances that linger in your mouth. This step, called "retro-olfaction", often reveals additional aromas.

Common Tasting Notes :

Sake tasting notes vary according to the type of sake (junmai, ginjo, daiginjo, honjozo, ...), the ingredients used and the brewing process. Here are some of the common tasting notes to be found in sake:

Fruits: Fruit scents and flavors are frequently associated with sake, notably apples, pears, citrus fruits, melons and plums.

Flowers: Floral notes, such as rose petals, orange blossom or jasmine, are sometimes present.

Herbs and Spices: Nuances of fresh herbs, mint or spices such as white pepper can be detected, as with rum tastings.

Cereals and Rice: Rice is the main ingredient in sake, and some varieties may have rice or cereal flavors.

Umami: Sake may have a slight umami note, which is a savory, salty flavor.

Earthy or smoky notes: Some sakes have earthy or slightly smoky aromas, in the same way as Japanese whisky.

Mouthfeel: Mouthfeel can be soft, light, creamy, dry or full-bodied, depending on the type of sake.

Length in the mouth: The persistence of flavors in the mouth varies, from a short finish to a long, persistent finish.

It's important to remember that tasting sake is a subjective experience, and personal preferences will play a role in the perception of aromas and flavors. As with fine French wines, you need to explore different types of sake to discover the one that best suits your tastes and for a better shopping experience in the future.

Sake plays an essential role in Japanese cuisine, and is used in a variety of ways to enhance the flavor of dishes. Here are just a few of sake's roles in cooking:

Seasoning and marinating: Sake is often used as a seasoning for dishes, particularly in marinades. It adds sweetness and complexity while helping to tenderize meats and fish.

Deglazing: Sake is used to deglaze pans after cooking meats or vegetables. It removes the cooking juices from the pan, creating a delicious sauce.

Steaming: When sake is added to the cooking water during steaming, it perfumes the food, giving it a subtle, pleasant flavor.

Preparing sauces: Sake is a key ingredient in many Japanese sauces, such as teriyaki sauce and ponzu sauce. It adds a balanced sweetness and acidity.

Soups and broths: Sake is sometimes used in soups and broths to add complex flavors.

Light frying: When lightly frying tempura or other foods, sake is sometimes added to the batter to achieve a light, crispy texture.

Dip Sauces: Sake is a common ingredient in dipping sauces, such as soy sauce lightly heated with sake to accompany sashimi.

Degrease: Sake is used to remove unwanted flavors from meat or fish before cooking, resulting in purer dishes in terms of flavor.

Caramelization: By adding a small amount of sake to a dish, you can help caramelize the food, creating a crisp texture and golden color.

Flambe: Sake is sometimes used to flambé dishes, adding spectacle to the cuisine while intensifying the flavors.

Mixology: In France and Japan, sake is particularly appreciated in cocktails (in cocktail bars and even at home!).

It's important to note that the quality of sake used in cooking can have a significant impact on the final taste of the dish. Sake is increasingly used in France, and appreciated by French chefs. In many recipes, a cooking sake called "mirin" is used. However, some dishes can benefit from the use of a higher quality sake for richer, more nuanced flavors.

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