I do not really know sake, but it intrigues me.
Recently, during a trip to California that made me go through Los Angeles, I stopped in a very good Japanese restaurant, a genre that does not often meet here in Quebec. You should know that the Japanese population in Los Angeles is very important and that we find not only a neighborhood “Little China”, but also a “Little Japan”.
So, after ordering different Japanese dishes, sushi and seafood in particular, I asked the waitress to suggest a good sake to accompany what I chose. Then handed me the map of Sake, which occupied almost as much space as the map (large) wine. Hundreds of sake, the names all the more strange than the others in my eyes of Quebeckers, ordered by producers, but also by type. In short, I was lost.
I ended up opting for a sake-type Nigora, ie unfiltered sake that was a strange milky, but that proved to be very perfumed (flowers and aromas of exotic fruits, coconut and almond paste) and just enough sweetness in the mouth to give a sweet finish that married perfectly with the savory sushi and statements that I had chosen.
I had never tasted anything like it. Obviously, for our Western Palace uninitiated, it is not clear flavors, and they will not please the first time a majority. But used in the context of a Japanese meal (or Korean), the experience is worth it.
Besides, I’m not the only one interested in the alcohol revered Rising Sun. In recent years, the number of sakes available at the SAQ has literally exploded. There was a time when the SAQ sold only two or three different sakes, including two sakes “table” quality very ordinary and does not do justice to this world unknown.
Perhaps this is due to the proliferation of sushi restaurants in Quebec for a decade, but the SAQ is now about twenty different sakes, available not only in their traditional bottle of 720 ml, but also smaller format in bottles of 300 ml, more convenient, which allows you to pay a premium sake and not break the bank without having to waste half of the bottle.
Different kinds of sake
As the wine comes in red, white, pink, sweet, etc.., Sake comes in many forms. To better differentiate, it is worth understanding how sake is produced.
First, although it is often said that a “rice wine”, it would be fairer to compare it to a beer. For the sake, as beer, is produced with a cereal, rice, sugar which is extracted by a complex process of brewing. At this stage, it incorporates a kind of fungus called koji, which accelerates the extraction of sugars from rice which will then produce alcoholic fermentation.
As for the wine that is produced from different grape varieties, the rice variety used influences the taste of sake.
Another factor also plays an important role in the quality of sake: the polishing of rice grains. As the starch (the carbohydrate rice) is concentrated at the center of the grain, the rice used for making sake is “polite” to eliminate most of the envelope of rice to keep only the heart.
We calculate the rate of polishing grains indicating the percentage of residual rice, ie the subsite grain. Thus, a grain very polite, rich in starch, have only 35% of its original size, with 65% of rice has been eliminated. The higher the rate, the lower the grain is concentrated in starch and the better sake. Some of the best bottles of sake indicate that rate on the cons-tag, often in Japanese or English (rice milling rate).
Futsushu: It’s Sake “ordinary” and also the most consumed worldwide. Cheaper, more anonymous and often drunk warm. It is often added to alcohol does not even from rice, but corn or sugar. It adds as much citric acid and lactic acid short, it’s usually a very industrial product.
Junmai Ginjo: Sake A designation of high quality, which guarantees a residual size after polishing of rice under 60%. Very fine. The most often dry. Drink chilled.
Junmai Daiginjo: A bit like Junmai Ginjo, but with a residual size after polishing under 50%.
Nigora Sake (nigorizake): An unfiltered sake or less filtered which therefore contains a good amount of suspended solids. It has a milky white color that recalls the rice milk. He must serve chilled and shake vigorously before pouring. Very aromatic and sweet flavors more often. Their alcohol content can vary from 10% to over 19%.
Genshu: Sake quality. Stronger alcohol since it is “pure” and that he was not added to water. It therefore as between 18% and 20% while the majority of sakes are 14% to 16% alcohol.
Cold rather than hot
We were accustomed to drink hot sake. Obviously it is in Japan: some microwave ovens Japanese even have a button specifically designed to warm the sake, but it is a practice we reserve the sake of “table” of lesser quality. The hot sake is consumed called “kan”. By cons, most sakes “premium” or “superior” or assessed rather cool, sometimes at room temperature. Indeed, logic suggests that heating any alcoholic beverage, it is to amplify the expression of alcohol in the mouth and hide the smell or taste nuances.
A hot drink Sake
Draft, sake, Hakutsuru, Japan
$ 10.65 for 720 ml
SAQ code: 00468173
Probably the most famous sake in Quebec (and cheaper). Sake is a type futsushu “or” draft “which is not subject to strict rules. This is the kind of sake to warm before serving (so “kan”). It shows aromas and flavors … rice with floral notes, very light. Frankly, it does not taste much …
Jumai Ginjo, Bizen, Toshimori Shujo, Japan
$ 17.25 for 300 ml
SAQ code: 11156588
Variety of Rice: Akaiwa-Omachi
Rates of rice remaining after “polishing”: 55%
A superb sake that appreciates fresh, a bit like a dry white wine. Aromas of fresh almonds, rice, cut hay, with mineral notes (reminiscent of wet stone) and a touch of candy (floss beard). Perfectly dry mouth, spicy, hint of bitterness long warm finish
Another beautiful sake
Junmai Dai Ginjo, Tatsuuma Honke, Hakuchika, Japan
$ 17.10 for 300 ml
SAQ code: 11156561
Rates of rice remaining after “polishing”: 50%
Sake clear. Fine nose recalling roasted almonds, cocoa, evaporated milk, white flowers. Supple on the palate, quite dry but round and spherical. Serve chilled.
Junmai Ginjo, Hakutsuru, Japan
$ 8.30 for 300 ml
SAQ code: 10757074
Sake ginjo Hakutsuru produced by the house (the same producer as the popular “Draft” cited above). Beautiful blue bottle, but really not pleasant. Clear. Aromas of rubber (from “Bubble »!!), floral notes and honey but not enough to make it attractive. Semi-dry mouth. Plat. Really ordinary. Serve cool too.
Nigora Sake Gekkeikan, Japan
$ 7.80 for 300 ml
SAQ code: 10757120
Sake almost unfiltered. On milky. Aromas dairy also reminiscent of the rice pudding. So we expect a sweet sake, we are surprised by a lively acidity on the palate, followed by a bitter, somewhat reminiscent of marzipan. Low alcohol (10%). All in all, quite strange. It is a Japanese sake, but the house also produced many Gekkeikan Sake California.