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Sake is an alcoholic rice wine that is native to Japan. It is believed that sake production dates back to the 3rd century, around the same time rice planting methods in Japan became common practice. There are many different varieties of sake, which are classified based on whether or not alcohol has to be added after the initial rice fermentation, and exactly how much rice is milled prior to sake brewing. 

Sake can be served either warmed or chilled. Traditionally, sake was served warm because the heat helped bring out a sweeter flavor. This is due the brewing practices at the time that involved fermenting sake mash in cedar vats. The wooden containers produced a cruder, less refined taste than modern brewing techniques, and the heat helped mask this less refined flavor. Many modern-day brands of sake have a more elegant, fruitful flavor to them, and these should be chilled to bring out these lighter tastes. 

Sake has a high reputation among dining enthusiasts. Because its main ingredients are simply rice and water, it is much easier on the stomach than most alcohols. Its mild flavor also goes well with traditional Asian dishes such as tempura and sushi, and it is often used in place of white wine when served with Western dishes. It is an excellent alternative to heavier-tasting alcoholic beverages.

Making Sake

The sake brewing process involves four main brewing ingredients: rice, water, yeast and koji, which is a special type of rice that has been cultivated with a mold called Aspergillus oryzae. First, rice is harvested and milled. The milling process is very important; as it has a direct impact on the taste of the sake once the brewing process is completed. Then, the rice is washed and steam-cooked and mixed in a vat along with the yeast and koji. In the past, sake brewers used vats made of cedar, but in a contemporary setting, these vats are made of ceramic or steel, which enhances the quality of sake at this stage in the brewing process. The batch is then left to ferment for four days, during which time more rice, water and koji are added and mixed in. This is perhaps the most important phase of the sake brewing process, as many delicate factors must be taken into consideration by the brewer including the temperature of the mixture and the levels of water, rice and koji added. This stage is called shikomi. 

Once shikomi is complete, the mixture is a mash called moromi. Moromi is allowed to sit for anywhere between eighteen and thirty-two days to allow its flavor to mature. After this time period, the moromi is mixed, pressed and filtered, and the resulting sake is allowed to sit for over six months to further round out the sake’s flavor. It is during this stage that alcohol or water will be added to increase or decrease the sake’s alcoholic content, respectively.


 

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