There is a lot of confusion about Sake – it is a brewed drink made from rice, a “Rice Wine” . There is an old saying that Sake is “made like a beer but drunk like a wine” However, the process of making sake is rather more complex.
We all know that in wine making, grapes are converted to alcohol by the transformation sugars in the juice to alcohol, the fermentable ingredient is grapes. In beer making – the fermentable ingredient is barley or wheat, but these contain no sugar – they contain starch so the starch has to be transformed to contain sugars using malt. The transformed sugars can then be converted into alcohol to make the beer…. So far, so simple!
In sake making the fermentable ingredient is rice but just like in beer making – (the fermentable ingredient) rice contains no sugar. The starch in rice is converted into alcohol using a mold called koji-kin so that the conversion of sugars to alcohol can take place to create Sake.
Furthermore there are various classifications – these depend on how polished the rice grains are to make the sake, and these are known as daiginjo (50%), ginjo (60%) and honjozo (70%) the more milled the rice grains, the lighter and more elegant the flavour.
Whether or not any brewers alcohol has been added to increase the flavours has an effect on the final flavours – the Sake is known as “Junmai Sake” if none has been added. If you combine the Junmai sake with the most polished (milled rice grain) you get Junmai Daiginjo – the most premium sake available.
There are other classifications – which need further investigation – all of which are coming in a blog post soon.