Sake Fever |
For Ibiza Style Mag – July 2019

PUBLISHED ON IBIZA STYLE MAGAZINE
JULY 2019

An introduction into the world of sake by ibiza’s own sake expert.

WRITER: ROSA HAMERSMA
PHOTOS: VINO & CO

Most people have experienced sake for the first time at their local Japanese restaurant on the corner of the street, probably an unmemorable house sake, served piping hot, which didn’t leave any impression except for steaming nail polish. Nevertheless, I urge you to give it another try. Whilst in Japan the consumption of the national brew has been on the decline, the rest of the world is opening up and ordering a second bottle. Sake exports have doubled in the past decade and whilst most sake ends up in Japanese restaurants, recently more chefs and sommeliers from all types of cuisines and backgrounds have expanded their drinks menu to accommodate this serious alternative to wine. This is mainly because of the huge aroma and flavour spectrum of sake, and with current kitchen trends, sommeliers often find an easier match with a sake than with a wine, paired with the rising interest of the people and the possibility to educate oneself, their staff and their guests. Sake has as much character and flavour as wine, and a much lower acidity. And despite the big numbers on the labels, such s 50% or 60%, these usually indicate the polishing ratio of the rice used in the brewing process rather than the alcohol percentage.

Most people have experienced sake for the first time at their local Japanese restaurant on the corner of the street, probably an unmemorable house sake, served piping hot, which didn’t leave any impression except for steaming nail polish. Nevertheless, I urge you to give it another try. Whilst in Japan the consumption of the national brew has been on the decline, the rest of the world is opening up and ordering a second bottle. Sake exports have doubled in the past decade and whilst most sake ends up in Japanese restaurants, recently more chefs and sommeliers from all types of cuisines and backgrounds have expanded their drinks menu to accommodate this serious alternative to wine. This is mainly because of the huge aroma and flavour spectrum of sake, and with current kitchen trends, sommeliers often find an easier match with a sake than with a wine, paired with the rising interest of the people and the possibility to educate oneself, their staff and their guests. Sake has as much character and flavour as wine, and a much lower acidity. And despite the big numbers on the labels, such s 50% or 60%, these usually indicate the polishing ratio of the rice used in the brewing process rather than the alcohol percentage.

“A very common mistake is that, as it’s traditionally served in tiny cups (called o’choko), it’s supposed to be drunk as a shot at the end of the meal as we would do with any hard liquor.”

A very common mistake is that, as it’s traditionally served in tiny cups (called o’choko), it’s supposed to be drunk as a shot at the end of the meal as we would do with any hard liquor. I much rather recommend to drink it out of a wine glass, chilled, and enjoy it with a meal, treating it just like you would treat a wine. Sake generally has in between 15 to 17% of alcohol, so it’s only marginally above the alcohol percentage in wine. It just drinks easier (so you drink faster, and get drunk quicker. Pace yourself and drink water. Or just dance on the table). There are two main classifications in sake, and those are Table Sake (the one from your local, unregulated and generally mass produced) and Premium Sake (regulated, created with high quality products, often in a very careful and artisanal way and mainly enjoyed chilled). Whilst the word Premium makes it sound like it’s out of anyone’s league, there’s a wide range of varieties and prices available. The organisation of the categories of Premium Sake are based on the degree to which the rice is polished down before the brewing process. The polishing step is important because the most refined delicate flavours of sake are found in the starchy center of the rice.

What gives stronger flavours to the sake are the fats, proteins and minerals found on the outer layers. The ranges go from Honjozo and Junmai, generally heavier bodied (yet sake is still lighter bodied than most wines), with cereal and lactic notes, to very clean and pure sakes and complex fruity and floral layers found in Ginjo and Daiginjo types. Thus, the more polished the sake rice is, the more delicate and pure the sake will taste. Nevertheless, don’t discriminate. A Junmai sake can be just as enjoyable as a Daiginjo sake, depending on the moment and the pairing. Sake is so hugely versatile, there’s something out there for all palates. The obvious pairing would be with an Asian styled dish, but pair it with your Mediterranean cuisine, Middle Eastern or even pizza or salted herring, it works and that’s why sake deserves it’s place in the worlds top wine lists, and even a space in your cellar or kitchen cupboard. Pair a rich variety with your Sunday BBQ, a fruitier Ginjo or Daiginjo with some jamón serrano or blue cheese, a bone dry sake with your fried calamari or even a plate of fresh oysters. Even fizz lovers are thought of, as sparkling sake is becoming increasingly popular as a smooth aperitif. So next time you’re out for dinner or having guests you’d like to impress, why not inquire about a sake to shake things up a little? At Vino&Co we carry around 30 labels and have two sake sommeliers on site to guide you through the varieties and help you pick the best pairing.

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