SAKE IS BREWED FROM RICE. The rice used to make sake has been polished or milled down to the degree desired to make the “grade” or class of sake. The core of the rice grain is where the starches are concentrated, while the outer layer contains the fats and proteins. The rice polishing ratio, or “Seimaibuai” is the percentage of the rice that remains after polishing. The more proteins and fats that are removed, the more the starchy center is revealed, leading to cleaner, more refined sake. (more sake info below)  

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Junmai is made of water, koji mold, yeast and rice that has been milled to roughly 70% of its original size (There is no minimum milling requirement for Junmai). Junmai is always made without addition of distilled alcohol — in other words, all alcohol in junmai is result of fermentation. Junmai tends to be full-bodied with good acidity and structure, and tends to pair with hearty food. In the past, a Junmai had to be milled to 70%. Today, a Junmai can be milled to only 95% of its original size, but it must have the milling rate listed on its label.

Ginjo and Junmai Ginjo are super premium sakes that involve a more hands-on brewing process, lower temperature and slower fermentation with a more delicate approach across the board. This extra effort produces a sake that is layered, complex, fragrant and playful. Ginjo or Junmai Ginjo sake has a minimum milling requirement of at least 60% (40% or more milled away) and Ginjo Sake has small amount of distilled alcohol added at the end of fermentation. Junmai Ginjo is made without the addition of distilled alcohol.

Daiginjo and Junmai Daiginjo form the ultra-premium tier of sake that’s made from at least 50% milled rice (half of original rice milled away). An extremely labor-intensive brewing process that requires a tremendous attention to detail and an artisanal spirit to execute. These sakes are elegantly refined with fantastic depth, complexity and finesse almost unparalleled in the beverage world. Junmai Daiginjo is made without the addition of distilled alcohol, while Daiginjo has a very small amount of neutral spirit added.

Nigori literally translates to “cloudy sake” and is made with the rice solids (lees) or undissolved rice from fermentation kept in the bottle, resulting in a sake that’s white in appearance and creamy in texture. Nigori sake is often referred to as “unfiltered” sake, though most nigori sake does go through rough filteration. The amount of rice solids left in the bottle can vary, resulting in a range of Nigori sakes from super light (“Usu-Nigori” or “Sasa-Nigori”) to rich and creamy.

Sparkling Sake is a relative newcomer to the traditional world of sake, only becoming popular over the last 10 years or so. Sparkling Sake, just like Sparkling Wine, becomes carbonated by several different methods, and that, along with a few other variables such as rice varietal used and milling rate, results in ranges of style and price points. Generally speaking, however, Sparkling Sake is low in alcohol, high in residual sugar, and simple and refreshing in style.

Source: Sake Book, Young's Market Company

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