First of all, it's always important to remember what Japanese sake is: Sake is a rice alcohol, more precisely made from the fermentation of rice. It usually does not exceed 18% alcohol.
Japanese sake can be consumed in different ways, with different accessories . Considering the amount of Japanese sake types, as well as the multitude of flavors, you are unlikely to find the sake that will match the desired time of the meal!
Drink sake as an aperitif
There are a number of categories in Japanese sake. Some sakes are often suitable to be drunk as an aperitif. On the one hand, you can find Japanese sakes macerated with fruits such as " Ume " or " Yuzu ” which will be ideal for an aperitif, thanks to their fruity and sweet side. These alcohols also exist in the form of liqueur ... But the importance of the taste of the fruit will be less.
On the other hand, there are also aged Japanese sakes, under different methods, whether it is " Koshu " or " Kijoshu ". Aged sake will tend to have strong aromas between cocoa and caramel. This often gives it very sweet flavors, which may remind some: cooked wine.
Finally, if you're a cheese lover like me… Well, some sakes are divine with these dishes. Often these are purely traditional sakes with ancestral manufacturing processes, such as " Kimoto " for example, which I particularly like when heated.
But ultimately, any sake could be suitable for an aperitif. Just as some prefer whiskey to beer as an aperitif or to drink a glass of white wine or rosé as an aperitif, you can absolutely drink a " Junmai Daiginjo " just as if it were a good glass of white wine.
Japanese sake, a divine alcohol throughout a meal
Eh yes. We broached the subject of Japanese sake during the aperitif. But in truth, sake is distinguished by its food pairings. He is even " Divine " in this matter. Indeed, for your information, wine has about 300 possible aromas. While Japanese sake has at least 600 of them. It is thanks to this array of flavors that Japanese sake can be paired with almost any food ... It will even sublimate your dishes.
For the meal, we can then find sakes that will combine perfectly with fish, meat, vegetables such as asparagus (a dish often difficult to accompany with wine). Depending on your food, you can choose different types of Japanese sake. Indeed, " Junmai Ginjo " and " Junmai Daiginjo " tend to go very well with meat or fish, even vegetables. But it is also interesting to combine aged sake or sake macerated in " Ume " with a good foie gras or duck breast with a sweet fruit. These types of sakes will also be excellent with fruit-based desserts, or chocolates.
Regarding cheeses, certain categories of sake such as " Kimoto " seem to be designed to sublimate them.
However, some dishes are more delicate to accompany with sake. I tend to think stews are more difficult. Japanese sake is made to bring out all the flavors in a dish. And it does it very well when it comes to delicate dishes like sushi for example (I'm talking about good sushi of course) or raw dishes. It is common in Japan to find meals with just cooked ingredients at value. In the end, the Japanese have very few dishes with sauce ... And sake is not for him to like dishes with a lot of sauce. That said, it is quite possible to find sakes that will go perfectly with sauerkraut or raclette!
So yes, Japanese sake can seem difficult to understand when you don't know it. But rest assured, this alcohol should be seen as a fun drink, with plenty of possible experiences. I would even say that it quickly becomes fun. You can easily consume a bottle in different ways and different foods.
Taste your Japanese sake
Is this one of your first times with Japanese sake? To begin with, we suggest taste your Japanese sake by taking up the codes you know from French wine. It is then preferable to serve it in pretty wine glasses.
As a first approach, and similar to wine, you can rate Japanese sake in different forms:
First, it is important to determine how the sake looks. Some will be completely translucent while others will approach the color of a Whiskey. The color of Japanese sake can vary depending on how old it is and how it is made. A bit like Whiskey, sake takes on more color as it ages, moving towards a very dark amber color.
Then feel free to smell the sake you have in your hands. You can find sometimes fruity notes there that remind you of the fruit itself. Sometimes it will be more honeyed or even very vegetal notes that will emerge from the sake. Sake has a multitude of aromas and therefore possibilities. This step can sometimes seem futile. Indeed, it is important in the wine to smell it in order to appreciate it. Smelling a sake doesn't add anything to how to enjoy it. However, this is a good way to understand your alcohol level, as well as the aromas you are likely to experience.
All you have to do is taste your sake. At first glance, you will feel its texture. Indeed, some sakes such as " Nigori Sake " are unfiltered sakes. In the mouth you can feel a milky sensation while other sakes such as " Junmai Ginjo " will be more fluid in the mouth.
This is when you are going to make an impact on the palate. Perfect subtlety or powerful taste? The sake is confusing the first time around, because it is difficult to trust the codes we know to interpret it. Unlike wine, sake stands out the most in length. It takes you on aromatic notes, which with each bite will make you discover new ones. This length is one of the elements that allows the sake to sublimate the dishes. Often more subtle on the palate than wine, it will leave you with a lasting taste that will allow you to add new flavors or amplify the flavors of your dishes.
To enjoy sake at its peak (not to mention the hot / cold difference), you will need to put your mouthful, chew it a little, then drink sake before swallowing. At that precise moment, the notes of Umami will come to take hold of your palate.
Are you new to sake or would you like to try a unique experience? Some sakes can be consumed hot, or even recommended hot. It is indeed a way of consuming that we do little in France. It is not our custom to heat good spirits. A heated sake will multiply the flavors and aromas. The Japanese estimate that a heated sake gains a year of age. This is really another way to enjoy it, especially in winter.
I will always remember my first experience with a " Kimoto " that I had heated. I had tasted it with a piece of aged Comté from Jura. Pure pleasure and an experience that no other alcohol can provide.
To know which sake to heat, you should already be interested in the types of sake. By default, pasteurized Japanese sakes can be consumed hot, while unpasteurized ones are best to drink cold. But nothing prevents you from trying the experiments regardless of the indications. The Japanese used to heat sake traditionally to accompany hot dishes. This is why, even though a sake is recommended at a certain tasting temperature, I can only advise you to heat it!
It is still important to know that the tasting temperature of a Japanese sake will impact its taste. Indeed a difference of 5 ° can influence the taste of a Japanese sake. Often times, master brewers who have indicated a heated tasting temperature to a specified degree will make it easier for you to reach the peak of taste pleasure.
Anyway, I recommend that you take a bottle, test it with the sommelier's recommendations, drink it at different temperatures, with different foods. Conduct different experiences, and have fun with your guests. I guarantee you will have an unforgettable evening, because after all, Japanese sake is a drink for sharing! Whatever happens, Japanese sake is an exceptional alcohol which, depending on the dish you put on the side, it will sublimate it.
Finally, do not hesitate to associate Japanese sake with French gastronomy. Sake has more possibilities than wine in association with food. " When the wine embellishes the meal, the sake the sublime "!