Part 2: Shopping
When buying sake there are many styles and grades. The quality, as previously discussed, is determined by the level of polishing the rice undergoes before being steamed.
Note: Indications about the degree of polishing is always in terms of what percentage of material remains. Ie. The less material that remains, the higher the grade.
To keep things simple I have chosen the main styles and classifications.
Honjozo – This sake has been polished to a minimum of 70% or less remaining and has had the addition of distilled brewer’s alcohol which smooths out the flavour. This is usually a light and easy drinking style that can be served both warm and cold.
Ginjo – This is a premium sake with a minimum of 60% or less remaining. The result is light, fruity and quite fragrant. This type is mainly served chilled.
Daiginjo – This is the super-premium sake (hence “dia” or “big”) with a minimum of 50% or less remaining. This sake is deemed the pinnacle for the Toji and is the most elegant, delicate and fragrant style of sake. I find it has a distinctive red apple quality to it.
Umeshu – Umeshu is a heady, fragrant dessert sake. It has a full, syrupy texture due to the sugar content. Made by adding Ume (plums) and sugar into sake. It has a clear almond, marzipan type character.
Yuzu Sake – Made by adding Yuzu (citrus fruit) juice into sake. This was one of my absolute favourites whilst in Japan. It’s not a main style, but I had to make you aware of this fantastic drink. Think Japanese limoncello and you won’t be far off the mark. Delicious.
If you are interested in sake please do head to the blog page on our website where I have written a short piece on the relevance of sake in Japan and how this is changing with the modern world. Cheers! Or should I say “Kanpai!”