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Common name in Europe for the rice wine, In Japanese, the word sake (honoredly spoken as o-sake) only indicates Seishu or Nihonshu, i.e. rice wine, in a narrower sense. Because sake is also a collective term for Wine. beer and alcoholic beverages in general. Colloquially, Nihonshu is common, Seishu is the technical term, so to speak. In order to avoid misunderstandings, these two terms should therefore be used. Despite the name, however, sake is much more like a beer than wine, because the sugar for the ver fermentation has to be unlocked first. Sake is in Japan still the national drink.

Sake - different types of sake - left a sparkling sake / sake advertisement

A rice wine has been in Japan since the 3rd century BC. Chr. Wet rice cultivation was introduced at this time. Rites of the Shinto religion have been handed down, in which rice was chewed by girls and then spat into vessels. This had a fermentative effect in which the rice starch was converted to sugar. By yeasts one came out of the air spontaneous fermentation, The end product had little alcohol content and was consumed like porridge. From the 5th century onwards fungal cultures for the fermentation used. The production of sake in Japan was initially limited to the imperial court and was gradually transferred to the monasteries. The Gekkeikan brewery from Kyoto has been making sake since 1637.


First the rice grains are “polished”, that is, the layers of bran are removed (Japanese: Sei-mai = polish rice). The stronger or the more this happens, the finer the product. With high-quality sake, up to half of the previous volume is removed. The excess material is marketed as rice flour. Then the kōji (starter culture) is made. For this purpose, part of the rice with the mold Aspergillus oryzae who vaccinated the fermentation the strength in glucose (Dextrose) promotes. Then a mixture of the kōji, steamed rice and water is formed, and that fermentation by adding lactic acid and yeasts started. A mixture with 18 to 20% vol alcohol content is formed. This is pressed to get the clear sake. If necessary, the alcohol content can be reduced to 15% vol by adding water. The sake then matures in tanks for six to twelve months. The filling takes place in ceramic or glass bottles as well as in Tetra pack,

Sake types

The premium qualities are called Tokutei Meisho-shu . For these there are strict production conditions with regard to the raw materials (exquisite rice and spring water from the Japanese mountains) and the manufacturing methods. The standard qualities that do not meet these requirements are called Futsu-shu or colloquially Ippan-shu . The unpolished of these make up 80% of the production volume. Other names and types are: Honjozo-shu (at least 70% polished), Junmai-shu (no prescribed polishing rate since 2005), Ginjo-shu and Junmai Ginjo-shu (at least 60% polished), and Daiginjo-shu and Junmai Daiginjo-shu (polished to at least 50%). Junmai-shu, Junmai Ginjo-shu and Junmai Daiginjo-shu do not add alcohol, which means it will not gespritet, The Shichiken is a bottle fermented , degorgierten dry sparkling sake.

Sake - shelf with lots of bottles - different sake

Mirin is similar to sake, a sweet rice wine with a lower alcohol content, which is only used for seasoning. An alcohol-free rice wine made from koji rice without the addition of yeast is called amazake (sweet sake). In China Shaoxing, named after the city, is the most famous brand of rice wine that is exported to over 50 countries worldwide. It is divided into more than ten types according to the content of sugar and alcohol. The most important ones after rising sugar levels are Yuanhongjiu, Jiafanjiu, Huadiaojiu, Shanniangjiu and Xiangxuejiu.

Enjoyment of sake

In winter, sake is often heated to a temperature of 35 to 40 ° Celsius and as aperitif or digestif drinking. This is called "putting a hot stone on your stomach" . In summer it is usually drunk cold and served very cold with ice cubes at 7 ° Celsius. Sake is drunk from small wooden cubes ( Masu ), Cups ( Ochoko ) or drinking bowls ( Sakazuki ). But it can also wine glasses used, is best suited for almost all types of sake Bordeaux glass, However, to taste the taste of dried fruit and nuts To enjoy an aged sake is best a big one Cognacglas or a Burgundy wine glass, Typical serving dishes are Katakuchi and for warmed sake Tokkuri (O-Choshi). The "Izakaya" sake gifts are a popular place for enjoyment. Sake is traditionally served there from the usual 1.8-liter bottles.

Sake - drinking bowls (Sakazuki), wooden cubes (Masu) and cups (Ochoko)

Sake is an excellent food companion and an important part of Japanese culinary and eating culture. As with wine, there are recommendations for which food which type of sake fits best. As a rule, sake is not served with sushi, as the vinegar-leavened rice is not compatible with the taste. There are very good suggestions for this on the special website UENO-Gourmet ; a member of Slow food,

Additional information

Complete lists of the numerous vinification measures or cellar techniques, as well as the wine, sparkling wine and distillate types regulated by wine law are under the keyword winemaking contain. There is extensive wine law information under the keyword wine law,

Text: Cooperation with OSR Dipl.-Päd. Wolfgang Mucher (certified sake sommelier)
Pictures of sake bottles: OSR Dipl.-Päd. Wolfgang Mucher
Image Sake Ads: From Unknown - Collection , Public Domain, Link
Image Masu: From The Epopt - Transfer wikipedia , public domain , link

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