How various sake is classified

Due to the implementation of the Liquor Tax Law revised in April 1, 1992, the long-standing Japanese sake “Classification System” was abolished. 
The Sake Classification System refers to the classification of sake according to a set of regulations applying different tax rates, with the classification (as Super-high Grade, First Grade, and Second Grade) certified based on the inspection results by the Regional Liquor Tax Council per National Tax Agency. The regulations per classification is broken down to Super-high Grade: “Excellent quality,” First Grade: “Good Quality,” and Second Grade: “Special Grade, not equivalent to First Grade.”    
However, there is a major defect in the Classification System. This is because Japanese sake not submitted to the National Tax Agency for inspection is all automatically classified as Second Grade. This Classification System generated a contradiction where the sake quality of Second Grade sake produced by small and medium-sized regional sake breweries are competitive with Super-high Grade and First Grade sake by major sake breweries when actually sampled. The Super-high Grade sake was abolished early as a special measure during a transitional period on April 1, 1989.   
Since the regional sake boom around 1975, consumers became familiar with Ginjo, Junmai, and special sake brands. However, independent rules partially exist within the sake industry over the differences between each sake (such as labels indicating the terminology used for production method, quality, and food ingredients, etc.), however, there are no organized regulations to govern these differences. Therefore, according to the revised Liquor Tax Law, the notification “Standards for Manufacturing Methods and Quality Indication for Sake” was issued by the National Tax Agency as a guideline for quality pertaining to the Classification System on April 1, 1990.      
This set of standards classifies Japanese sake into “specific class name of sake” and sake other than the specific class name of sake (ordinary sake) based on differences in food ingredients and production methods. All sake sold commercially is classified into one of these two categories.   
The specific class name of sake refers to Ginjo, Junmai, and Honjozo, further classified into eight types according to differences in production method, quality, etc.: Ginjo, Daiginjo, Junmai, Junmai-Ginjo, Junmai-Daiginjo, Tokubetsu-Junmai, Honjozo, and Tokubetsu-Honjozo. Based on objective standards such as food ingredients and production methods, consumers can now determine differences in sake quality and characteristics. 
The points of production method and quality regulating the specific class name of sake are ① Rice-polishing Ratio, ② The use of distilled alcohol, and ③ whether the Ginjo method was used or not during the production process.   

 しかし、この級別制度には大きな欠陥があった。というのも、国税局の審査に出品しない日本酒はすべて自動的に二級酒に分類されてしまっていたからだ。そのため、たとえば地方の中小蔵の二級酒の酒質が、実際に飲んでみると大手の特級酒や一級酒に匹敵する、といった矛盾を生むことになったのである。ちなみに、特級については移行措置としてひと足早く、 平成元年4月1日から廃止されている。 
この基準は、原料や製造方法などの違いによって、日本酒を「特定名称酒」と特定名称酒以外の日本酒(普通酒)とに分けたもので、市販されている日本酒はすべて、特定名称酒か普通酒のいずれかに属することになる。 特定名称酒とは吟醸酒、純米酒、本醸造酒のことで、これらはさらに製造方法や品質などの違いによって、吟醸酒、大吟醸酒、純米酒、純米吟醸酒、純米大吟醸酒、特別純米酒、本醸造酒、特別本醸造酒の8種類に分類されている。これによって消費者は、原料や製造方法といった客観的基準をもとにして、日本酒の品質の違いや特徴を判断することができるようになったわけである。 
#alljapannews #daiginjo #flavor #japanese #japanesefood #japanesesake #junmai #sake


Rice suitable for sake-brewing determines the fundamental flavor of sake 

Non-glutinous Japonica rice is used to brew sake, also consumed as a staple. Many rice varieties are grown in Japan, all suitable to brew sake. Rice most suitable to brew sake is referred to as “rice suitable for sake-brewing.” 
The variety of rice suitable for sake-brewing must satisfy three conditions: Large grain size, white core, and low protein content.  
The most representative brands of “rice suitable for sake-brewing” are “Yamadanishiki,” “Gohyakumangoku,” “Miyamanishiki,” “Omachi,” etc. However, the production volume is nowhere close to the volume in demand to brew sake. Rice suitable for sake-brewing is difficult to grow compared to common rice. For example, “Omachi” rice is large in grain size and an excellent variety of rice large in grain size. However, long rice stalks fall over while harvesting, making it difficult to harvest by machine. Therefore, the crop acreage does not increase, with some varieties like Omachi rice decreasing in production volume year by year, which raises the cost. Thus, a significant volume of common rice is also used as sake rice.   
The grain size of brown rice varies by variety. The grain weight of 1,000 grains of brown rice uniform in grain size is referred to as “1,000 grain weight.” Rice with grain weight of 25 g or greater is notably referred to as “large grain size” compared to common brown rice with grain weight between 20~22 g. While rice, large in grain size, with a white core in the center and a moist appearance is referred to as “large white core rice.” The white core consists of coarse grains of starch. If this core is large, koji mold propagates easily, which grows koji easily in the white core, an important aspect of koji preparation.  
Also, water penetrates easily into the core of large white rice grains. Steaming rice hardens the outer grain and softens the inside, which makes the preparation of yeast starter and fermenting-mash easier.     
Also, rice contains protein and fat. These components are required to brew sake (for example, umami flavor unique to sake is derived from amino acids created by koji mold breaking down protein). However, an excess amount of these components will compromise the flavor and aroma. Many of these components are contained in the surface layer of rice grains that get polished to brew sake.    

 代表的な品種は、「山田錦」、「五百万石」、「美山錦」、「雄町」などだが、その生産量はすべての酒造需要をまかなうにはとても及ばない。酒造好適米は、一般の飯米に比べて栽培がむずかしいということもある。たとえば、大粒米のなかでも「雄町」は米粒が大きく優秀な品種だが、茎が長いため結実期に倒伏し、機械での刈り取りがしにくいという欠点がある。したが って、作付け面積はなかなか増えず、雄町のように年々減少している品種もあり、価格も高い。そのため、一般の飯米もかなりの量が酒米として使われているのが現状といわれる。 
玄米の粒の大きさは品種によって違う。粒の揃った玄米1000粒の重量を千粒重というが、 一般の飯米の玄米が20~22gであるのに対して、25g以上のものを特に「大粒米」または「大粒種」と呼ぶ。そして、 大粒種のなかでも、粒の中心部(心白)が白くうるんで見えるものを「大粒心白米」という。心白はでんぶん粒が粗い部分で、これが大きいと麹カビが繁殖しやすく、麹造りの重要なポイントの1つである破精込みが容易になる。酒造好適米の検査基準では、心白の発現率は80%以上である。
また、米にはたんぱく質や脂質、灰分が含まれている。これらの成分は酒造りに必要(たとえば、日本酒独特の旨みは、麹カビがたんぱく質を分解してつくるアミノ酸に由来する)だが、多すぎるとかえって、味や香りを損なってしまう。これらの成分の多くは米の表層部に含まれているため、 酒造りでは必ず米を精白するわけだが、米の内部にも少ないほうが酒の質への影響がより小さくなるわけである。 
#alljapannews #japanese #japanesefood #japanesesake #junmai #sake #sakebrewing


Japanese Sake Enhances the Flavors of Various Cuisines

Junmai sake is sake produced from fermentation-mash - prepared from rice, malted rice and water – fermented, then squeezed. No other ingredient is used other than water, added afterwards to adjust the alcohol content. Needless to say, Junmai sake is truly pure rice wine, the fundamental form of all Japanese sake.    

Sake is also used as a condiment in Japanese cuisine, mainly to neutralize the smell of food ingredients and add umami flavor to enhance flavor, tenderize food ingredients, etc. Sake is essential in preparing seafood and meat dishes for this reason. In addition, sake is used in dishes dressed with sauces, pickled dishes, and dishes not heated after sake is added. To prepare dishes that simply use the flavor of sake without adding any alcohol from sake, simply heat sake in a pot to evaporate the alcohol content before use. This is called “nikiri-sake” (“boiled (evaporated) sake”). 

Next, let’s review representative examples of cooking methods using sake as the main condiment. 

Saka-iri (reduced down with sake): Cooking method using the flavor of sake to neutralize the gamey smell and odd flavors from seafood and meat, etc. Pour a small amount of sake into a pot with the food ingredients and simmer until the excess liquid is gone.    

Saka-shio (sake seasoned with salt): Sake flavor seasoned with a small quantity of salt. A cooking method used to marinate food ingredients in sake with salt. Otherwise, the mixture is brushed onto grilled dishes to adjust the flavor to a refined finish. 

Saka-ni (simmered in sake with salt): To simmer food ingredients in a large volume of sake, seasoned only with salt. A cooking method that maximizes the flavor of sake. Any soy sauce used is added in very minimal quantities.  

Saka-happou: Sake added to dashi (soup broth), mainly to give food ingredients with peculiar flavors a mild-flavored finish. A type of happou-dashi (a combination of mixed seasonings, often combining dashi (soup broth) with mirin (sweet rice wine) and soy sauce).    

By the way, “mirin” (sweet rice wine) was first produced from the end of the Muromachi period (1336-1392) into the Edo period (1603-1867), initially enjoyed as sweet sake. Towards the end of the Edo period however, mirin started to be used mainly as a condiment. Today, mirin is cherished as an essential condiment to Japanese cuisine, used more frequently than sake. The main components of mirin are divided broadly into sugar, alcohol, amino acids, organic acids, and aroma components. This complex composition of mirin ingredients is known to generate various culinary effects.    

These culinary effects are: ① Adds a refined sweet flavor to dishes, ② Enhances umami flavors, ③ Adds a glaze, ④ Adds a suitable grilled/broiled color, ⑤ Adds an enticing aroma, ⑥ Adds a savory and smooth flavor, ⑦ Enhances the penetration of flavors, ⑧ Prevents foods from falling apart, ⑨ Neutralizes the smells of food, etc.  



また、日本酒は日本料理では調味料としても用いられる。その主な効果は、材料の臭みを消す、旨みを加えて風味をよくする、材料を柔らかくする、などである。そのため、とくに魚介類や肉類の調理には欠かせない調味料のーつとされている。また、和えものや酢のものなど、酒を加えた後は加 熱しない料理など、アルコールは邪魔だが酒の風味だけを生かす場合には、酒を鍋などに入れて火にかけ、アルコール分を飛ばしてから用いる。これを「煮切り酒」という。 


・酒煎り 魚介類や鳥肉などの生臭みやくせを除き、酒の風味を移すための調理法。鍋に材料と酒少量を入れて、汁気がなくなる程度に煎りつける。 

・酒塩 少量の塩で味をととのえた酒。下処理として材料を漬け込んだり、 焼きものの仕上げに塗ると、味がととのい上品な仕上がりになる。 

・酒煮(酒塩煮) たっぷりの酒を使って煮ること。味つけは塩だけで、 酒の風味を最大限に生かす調理法。醤油を使う場合は、ごく少量に控える。

・酒八方(酒塩八方) だしに酒を加えたもので、主としてくせのある材料をあっさりと炊く場合に用いる八方だしの一種。  

ところで、「みりん」は室町時代末期から江戸時代にかけて造られ始め、 当初は甘口の酒として飲用されていたが、江戸時代後半頃から主として調味料として用いられるようになった。今日では日本酒以上に、日本料理に欠かせない調味料として重宝されている。 みりんの主な成分は、糖分、アルコール分、アミノ酸、有機酸、香り成分に大別されるが、これらの複雑な成分組成が、みりんのさまざまな調理効果を生むことが分かっている。その効果は、①料理に上品な甘みをつける、②旨みを増強する、③照りつやを出す、④適度な焼き色をつける、⑤ 好ましい香りをつける、⑥味をまろやかにする、⑦味の浸透性をよくする、 ⑧材料の煮くずれを防止する、⑨材料の生臭みを消す、などである。 
#alljapannews #japanese #japanesefood #japanesesake #junmai #sake


Purchase Motive and Sake Labels

By Yuji Matsumoto

When I go to a nearby Japanese supermarket, I often find Americans at complete loss as to what to choose in the sake/shochu section.  The same goes even for the Japanese, unless you have the brands memorized.  So how can we categorize sake to make it easy for consumers to choose? We need to look into their purchase motivations, and what questions they have.

Consumers’ purchase motivations

• I like sake A because it’s rich-bodied and has good acidity and pairs well with meat dishes, but I couldn’t find it in a supermarket. How can I find something similar to it?

• Which sake will be good as a birthday present for my girlfriend(boyfriend), who usually prefers red wines with higher tannin levels?

• I usually enjoy drinking B, but today is a special occasion and I want something similar but more expensive. How do I choose one?

• What’s good as hot sake?

Generally speaking, these are the sorts of questions normal consumers have. 

It’s impossible to provide answers to all such questions and display sake accordingly, but it is possible to categorize them by the aroma, body, and food parings. Below chart is what I would use as an attempt to categorize most of the sake, based on my innumerous tastings in the past. 

First, have the breweries categorize all their sake being exported to U.S. into “zones.” If they think their sake is refreshing with an aroma of a cantaloupe, it should be in the “summer zone.”  The categorizations should be displayed on labels in an industry-wide standardized format.  Restaurants and retailers can then post posters or hang messages on the neck of the bottles, to explain the zoning map. The breweries can have their own logos in the middle of the labels as they wish. I sincerely hope that sake bottle labels can be standardized as such.




• Aという濃醇なボディーで酸味香のある肉料理に合う日本酒が好きだが、スーパーに行ったらこの銘柄が無かった。Aという銘柄に近いものを探すのにはどうするか。

• 今回は、彼(彼女)の誕生日なので、普段タンニンの効いた赤ワイン好きな彼(彼女)が気に入る日本酒はどれだろうか。

• 普段はBという銘柄を好んで飲んでいるが、今日は特別な日なので値段が高い同じ傾向の日本酒がほしいがどうやって選ぶか。

• 熱燗に適した日本酒はどれ?



#alljapannews #japanese #japanesefood #japanesesake #junmai #sake


Sake Nation “A new way to promote Japanese sake combines a live-stream (two-dimensional) event with an in-person tasting (three-dimensional) event: Pa

By Kosuke Kuji

A new way to promote Japanese sake fusing a 2-dimensional live-stream with a 3-dimensional in-person event requires us real-world sake brewers to first jump into the 2-dimensional world of Vtubers (virtual YouTubers). 

Vtubers and sake brewers entered the same world via Zoom to participate in a virtual sake brewery tour and sake tasting event. 

Viewers who enjoy sake in the 3-dimensional real world and others who enjoy interacting in the 2-dimensional digital world discussed Ginjo together in the same screen, indicative of endless possibilities for future collaboration.  

Further, this collaboration with Vtubers produced an illustration by the Vtubers used on the sake label, printed onto sake cups to create limited-edition merchandise for this event. These merchandise were a huge hit, sold out on the e-commerce platform mercari, thanks to online viewers who never purchased Japanese sake before. The 2-dimesional world fused with the 3-dimensional world for Vtubers, who enjoyed a live event from the comfort of their home as they enjoyed sake during this exclusive collaboration.  

Lastly, the “Enjoy Ginjo Fair” was held at the Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Ikebukuro in late September. Here, Vtuber Yuzuru Himesaki participated by video in the digital 2-dimensional world, while sake breweries participated in the 3-dimensional real world, and performed the ritual of breaking open a ceremonial sake barrel. Here, the 2-dimensional digital world fused into this 3-dimensional in-person event. 

In this way, traditional Japanese industries like sake breweries jumped into a new world using the latest cutting-edge IT technology, a truly fruitful collaboration and experience. 

I hope this fusion of two worlds of different dimensions attracts new Japanese sake fans to revitalize the domestic consumption of sake in Japan, showing continued decline. 

酒豪大陸「二次元と三次元の融合による新たな日本酒の道 その3」






#alljapannews #daiginjo #japanese #japanesefood #jizake #junmai #sake


Sake Nation “A new way to promote Japanese sake combines a live-stream (2D) event with an in-person tasting (3D) event: Part I”

Sake Nation “A new way to promote Japanese sake combines a live-stream (two-dimensional) event with an in-person tasting (three-dimensional) event: Part I”

By Kosuke Kuji
The production volume of Japanese sake has been dropping continuously in Japan to date since 1975.
To the contrary, production volume of premium sake like “Ginjo” and “Junmai” are continuing to increase.
However, Japan’s population is starting to decline, with less opportunities to consume alcohol in part due to the aging population. Getting Japan’s population to consume alcohol is getting more difficult in this day and age. Despite the demand for sake increasing overseas, the production volume is not that high, another challenge to tackle since not all breweries export sake.
In this predicament, breweries industry-wide joined forces and founded “The Japan Ginjo Sake Association” to introduce flavorful Ginjo sake throughout Japan.
Founded in 1980 before premium sake was launched, the association celebrates 41 years since their foundation.
The Japan Ginjo Sake Association reflected on their long history of 40 years and organized the tasting event, “Enjoy! Ginjo Fair,” to take on new challenges against the Coronavirus pandemic.
This new type of tasting event is the first in the world to feature a VTuber (virtual YouTuber) to combine a live-stream (two-dimensional) event with an actual tasting (three-dimensional) event to introduce the appeal of Ginjo sake.
The next report elaborates on the background that led to the organization of this event. Please stay tuned!

The Japan Ginjo Sake Association Home Page

酒豪大陸「二次元と三次元の融合による新たな日本酒の道 その1」


#ginjo #japanese #japanesefood #junmai #sake


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (200 years of history)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Kanemasu Brewery (Shibata city, Niigata prefecture), producer of Junmai Daiginjo “Hatsuhana” and “Kinmasu,” celebrated 200 years since their foundation. Kanemasu Brewery was founded as “Takahashi Shuzo” in Shin-Niigata city, Niigata prefecture in 1822 and relocated to their current location in Shibata city in 1930 to access quality water and rice. I received an invitation from Kanemasu brewery to celebrate 200 years in business. Since the liquor shop I operate is a client of the brewery, I visited Shibata city, Niigata prefecture to attend the celebration. On my way, I first stopped by Aumont Sake Brewery, Inc., also located in Shibata city, Niigata prefecture.
The reason for my visit was to verify a rumor that started when Ichishima Sake Brewery changed their name to Aumont Sake Brewery, Inc. in February 2022. A rumor that the brewery’s retail shop became their promotional shop and tourist attraction circulated. Upon arrival, I was surprised to see how clean the brewery was, more like a posh Japanese restaurant in the suburbs in appearance. When I stepped inside, sake brands on the shelves consisted not only of Aumont Sake Brewery, but also by Kikusui and Kanemasu Breweries. The retail shop selling local food products is equipped with a food court, acting as a promotional shop for Aumont Sake Brewery as rumored. Although I wanted to purchase some local specialty foods, I still had to reach my primary destination. Therefore, I put off my purchase and headed to Kanemasu Brewery. Upon arrival, several participants had already arrived, along with food trucks from a local café on stand-by.
First, I spoke to the founder and master sake brewer, enjoyed a glass of beer and sake served as a gesture to welcome my visit, then followed the master sake brewery on a tour of the brewery. Although I was already familiar with the inside of the brewery, it’s not often I enter the brewery with many other visitors. Just seeing the reaction of other visitors was interesting. A 40-minute introduction of the brewery was presented throughout the day, with many visitors listening to the master sake brewer’s introduction. Next came the main product of the event, coffee liquor. In September, Brazil celebrated 200 years since declaring independence from Portugal. To commemorate this celebration, the Brazilian Embassy consulted Kanemasu Brewery, also celebrating their 200-year anniversary, to discuss a collaborative product produced from Brazilian coffee beans.
Kasutori shochu (made from distilling sake lees left over from fermenting sake) is the main shochu produced by a Japanese sake brewery, produced by Kanemasu Brewery using pot distillation. The brewery also produces rice shochu, sweet potato shochu, and distilled beverages. Shochu and Brazilian coffee beans were used to produce this collaborative coffee liquor, refreshing to the palate with a fragrant coffee aroma that calms the mind of the consumer, completed to perfection. The joint celebration between the Brazilian Embassy and Kanemasu Brewery continued for several days until preparation for production started, which consisted of a photo exhibition, capoeira performances, musical performances, etc. The day left me mesmerized by the depth of Japanese sake that established a fated connection made possible only after 200 years in business.


#daiginjo #japanese #japanesesake #jizake #junmai #niigata #sake


Communicate the appeal of sake to customers

By Yuji Matsumoto

Happy New Year! We look forward to working with you again this year.

No matter how good a product is, the message needs to be communicated for customers to try the product.
let’s consider when the appropriate timing is and how to communicate the appeal of Japanese sake in a way that leads to sales.

Consider who the message is directed to
Are chefs, servers, and bartenders trained appropriately? Training the staff to thoroughly understand why a brand of sake tastes delicious and why customers should try it is important because a single try will not be sufficient to understand even ten percent of the appeal of a brand. Therefore, please have staff try the sake paired with the cuisine.

Of course, a good place to start would be to have the servers change their ordering from “What can I get you to drink?” to “It’s cold outside, would you like to try some hot sake?” This suggestion alone is a major difference. Also, please mention two to three different brands of Japanese sake during the recommendation.

Speak informatively to customers in a way that generates a response like “Oh really?” For example, “How about AAA, a dry and refreshing sake from Niigata that goes great with sushi?” Or “Would you like to try BBB, a brand of sake from Akita that has body and goes great with teriyaki?” The point is to word the recommendations into easy-to-understand sales pitches that makes customers want to try the brand. Offer two to three different brands that range from reasonable to mid-range prices.






#japanese #japanesefood #japaneserestaurant #junmai #kanpai #newyear #sake


Let's drink Sake

By Yuji Matsumoto

What is good sake?
Certainly one standard is the price, but we need to think if we can find a sake that has the value to satisfy ones taste. It is important to find a "sake that suits me" instead of a good sake. There would be a tendency for one that likes fully body red wines to prefer a Junmai-Kimoto or Honjozo type, and one that likes a young, fruity chardonnay to prefer a gentle, strong aroma Daiginjyo type.

Cold or Hot
Many people think that high quality sake should be enjoyed cold but this is wrong. Compared to fine quality sake which you can drink without worrying about the temperature, sake that has poor balance should be enjoyed extremely cold.

Tasting method
Sip it with air like you would with wine. For the glass, it is important to pour a small amount into a glass for white wines type and swish it around lightly to come in contact with air.

Drinking container is important
It is amazing that the taste can totally change with the glass you use not only for sake but for wines and beers also. If you want to enjoy the taste, especially examine the aroma, it is good to use a small white wine glass. If you are having it hot, it is good to use a smaller ceramic type container that doesn't have the shape to be smothered with alcohol steam and doesn't cover your nose when you put it to your mouth.






#japanese #japanesefood #junmai #sake #tasting


Get Your Appetite Back with Sake

By Yuji Matsumoto

The other day I had the opportunity to go to Las Vegas due to business, but couldn't believe that the day high was 45 degrees C (113 degF). With hot winds and scorching heat that may seem to melt the asphalt, I lost my appetite and found myself in an unhealthy predicament to spend a whole week in an air-conditioned room.
To ease my body from this heat, I decided to join (mariage) miso grill with a summer favorite vegetable nasu (eggplant) with extremely cold "Junmai Daiginjyo" .
Nasu doesn't contain much of nutrition value, but as you know miso (soybean paste) helps you with fatigue recovery, cancer prevention, cholesterol control, proper bowel movement, beauty improvement, brain activation, age prevention, stimulation of body function etc and the list goes on. Also, soybeans that are the main content contain fine quality protein, an abundance of necessary amino acids, saponin that is known to prevent increase of peroxide lipids, different vitamins, potassium, and food fibers etc. You couldn't be more than happy that miso goes well with Japanese sake.
So why don't we enjoy ourselves by having high nutritional value miso food and Junmai Daiginjo and help our body recover from the summer heat.



#daiginjo #japanesefood #junmai #sake


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