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Basic knowledge of Sake

The best medicine

Data from research around the world indicates that a certain amount of alcohol can help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, osteoporpsis, amnesia, arterial sclerosis, heart attack, and liver cirrhosis.
Since alcohol dilates blood vessels that have constricted due to stress, and stimulates blood capillaries, it stimulates the flow of blood, improving blood circulation.
This helps to rejuvenate blood vessels, making them more resilient, and relax tightened muscles.
It is also said that drinking alcohol has a soothing effects.

Special strains of rice

Known as sakamai ("sake rice"), the rice that is the primary ingredient in sake is different from the rice eaten at table. Approximately 5% of the rice grown in Japan is sake rice.
Of this, only rice that meets certain stipulations can be called premium sake rice.
Only about 30% of the sake rice grown qualifies as premium sake rice.
The quality of sake rice has a great effect on that of sake.


Waterconstitutes 80% of sake, making it just as vital an ingredient as rice, and it plays a decisive role.
But water cannot be transported, unlike rice that can be stored and carried, making it possible for any brewery to obtain quality rice.
That is why all sake breweries throughout Japan are locates close to rivers or other water sources.
If a brewery is luckly, its natural environment will provide delicious water for shikomi.
High quality water equates to high quality sake. Hence the saying, "Where the water is good you'll find fine sake."

Sake varieties

  • [Ginjyo-shu] is a sake made using white rice which has been milled so that 60% or less of the grain remains. It also contains rice koji and water, and may contain all of these ingredients plus brewing alcohol. It is characterized by a fruity, somewhat floral bouquet and a clear, crisp flavor. If the rice is polished down to 50% or less, the sake is called Dai-ginjyo-shu.
  • [Junmai-shu] is a sake made only from white rice, rice koji, and water. It tends to have a mellow bouquet and rich, smooth flavor. Junmai-ginjyo-shu is classified as junmai-shu, but it is made in the same process of making ginjyo-shu. If the rice used in junmaiginjyo-shu is polished down to 50% or less, the sake is called Junmai-daiginjyo-shu.
  • [Honjyozo-shu] is a sake made using white rice which has been milled so that 70% or less of the grain remains, along with rice koji, brewing alcohol, and water. It is known for its mild, unobtrusive bouquet, and a crisp flavor.
  • [Futsu-shu] All other types of sake. Futsu-shu is consumed widely throughout Japan.

Variations in dryness and acidity

  • [Nihonshu-do] DRYNESS SCALE This scale provides a mathematical expression of the sweetness and dryness of sake, the perception of which can vary from one person to another. It is based on the relative density of sake compared to pure water at 4 degree. If the density is higher, a minus figure is designated; for lower density the figure is a plus. The sweeter the sake is, the heavier the density and the higher the minus number. The drier the sake is, the higher the plus number.
  • [Sanmi] ACIDITY This indicates the volume of acid in the sakem such as malic acid and lactic acid. The ligher the acidity, the richer and more robust the flavor will be. Even if the dryness scale is minus (indicating a sweet sake), a high acidity can give the impression that the sake is dry.

How to enjoy sake

As the smallest variation in temperature can create complex and varied changes in sake's fragrance and flavor, sake can be drunk at wide variety of temperatures. Types of sake which have bright, fruity flavors such as ginjyo-shu and daiginjyo-shu, should be served chilled. However, this is just a general rule and any type of sake can be enjoyed according to the drinker's preference. As sake is chilled, the more its sweetness disappears, producing a clean, light flavor. Conversely, as sake is heated, the sweetness and umami swell to produce a taut dryness and depth; a complexity of flavor develops. The alcohol becomes more volatile, naking its flavor more noticeable. A sake that is llightly heated or just warm is the style most favored by sake drinkers, as it brings out the softness and umami of sake.

Yawaragi-water (Chaser)

Yawaragi water is water drunk between one cup of sake and the next, offering a pause in proceedings. This is water refreshes the palate, and will help prevent sudden inebriation and excessive drinking. Yawaragi-water makes the drinker feel sake and food more delicious.

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