Introduction to Sake Grading System
As a sake expert, I’m often asked about the grading system for sake. Many people don’t realize that there are different grades of sake, and they don’t understand the difference between them. In this article, I’m going to explain the different grades of sake and provide some tips for deciphering the grades of sake.
What is Sake?
Before we dive into the different grades of sake, let’s start with a brief definition of sake. Sake is a traditional Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. It has a light, crisp flavor that is similar to wine, but with a slightly sweet finish.
Different Grades of Sake
There are four main grades of sake: Junmai, Ginjo, Tokubetsu, and Daiginjo. Each grade has its own unique characteristics and flavor profile. Let’s take a look at each one.
Junmai is the most common grade of sake. It is made with only rice, water, and koji (a type of mold used to break down the starch in the rice). Junmai sake has a slightly sweet flavor and is usually light and easy to drink.
Ginjo sake is made with a higher percentage of rice polishing, which gives it a more complex flavor. It has a light, fruity aroma and a dry finish. It is often served chilled or at room temperature.
Tokubetsu sake is made with a higher percentage of rice polishing than Junmai and Ginjo. It has a fuller body and a more complex flavor. It is often served chilled or at room temperature.
Daiginjo is the highest grade of sake. It is made with a higher percentage of rice polishing than any other grade, and it has a very light, delicate flavor. It is usually served chilled or at room temperature.
Tips for Deciphering the Grades of Sake
Now that you know the different grades of sake, here are some tips for deciphering them:
Pay Attention to the Japanese Characters
The Japanese characters used to label sake can provide clues as to the grade of sake. Junmai sake is labeled with the characters 純米, Ginjo is labeled with the characters 吟醸, Tokubetsu is labeled with the characters 特別, and Daiginjo is labeled with the characters 大吟醸.
Learn About the Brewing Process
It’s important to understand the brewing process and what goes into each grade of sake. The more you know about the process, the better you’ll be able to decipher the grades of sake.
Understand the Importance of Rice Polishing
Rice polishing is an important factor in determining the grade of sake. The more the rice is polished, the higher the grade of sake.
Keep an Eye Out for Special Designations
Some sake is labeled with special designations, such as Junmai Daiginjo or Ginjo Super Premium. These designations indicate that the sake is of a higher grade than the standard grade.
Now that you know the different grades of sake, you can begin to evaluate sake on your own. Understanding the grading system can help you choose the best sake for your taste and budget. With a little bit of knowledge and practice, you’ll be able to enjoy sake like a true connoisseur.