Although there is a large variety of Sake, this alcoholic beverage can be divided into two main groups: those with alcohol added to rice and those that are rice only. Amongst the added alcohol group, there are four subgroups: cheap Sake (lots of alcohol added to increase yields), Honjozo, Ginjo-Sake and Dai-Ginjo-Sake (all three are premium Sake). The difference among these premium sake is the amount of rice milled before the brewing process. Lastly, rice-only sake can be broken down into three groups: Junmai-Sake, Junmai-Ginjo, and Junmai-Dai-Ginjo – with the sole difference among them being the varying amounts of rice milled before brewing.
Just to offer a little extra clarification- the word itself just means “alcohol,” the connotation for rice wine take place primarily within Western culture. In any case, it has to have a rice base to qualify- that’s really the main aspect. It can, any quite often does, however, have all sorts of fruit fushions and twists added in.
Sake is a rice based wine and the main ingredients that go into the brewing process are rice, water, yeast, koji, the people brewing it, land and weather. There are at least 9 varieties of rice used in making sake and they originate in different places thus giving them distinct aromas, tastes, and textures, and the rice is pretty much like the grapes of wine. Although it may not seem it, water a very important ingredient in sake since in its completed form, sake is 80% water. The water also impacts the taste due to factors like is the water hard or soft, and rich or poor in minerals, which is why great sake water usually comes from fresh mountain streams, and now more producers are starting to use bottled water to ensure purity. Koji is extremely important in sake because it is what allows the starch in rice to breakdown into sugar so that the yeast can fermented with it. This is like the sugar in wine grapes. Koji is actually mold spores cultivated on the rice. The yeast will influence many elements of sake taste, but most notably the fragrance. These are just the basic ingredients of sake, but the skill of the brewers is just as important as the ingredients when making good sake.
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