Types of Sake and Pairing Food With Sake

I am not an expert in sake, but I would like to know more about the different styles of sake, plus how to pair sake with food.  So, I’ve been doing research online and would like to start off by telling you about what I learned about the different types of sake and pairing food with sake.

Sake Background

A variety of sake
A variety of sake

Sake is a traditional Japanese rice wine that has been enjoyed for centuries. There are several different types of sake, each with its own unique flavour and aroma. The first type of sake is called Junmai, which means “pure rice” in Japanese. This type of sake is made only from rice, water, and koji, a type of mold used in the fermentation process. Junmai sake has a full-bodied flavour and is best served at room temperature or slightly warm.

The second type of sake is Ginjo, which is made using a special milling process that removes the outer layer of the rice grains. This type of sake has a delicate, fruity flavour and is best served chilled. Ginjo sake is often used for special occasions and is considered a premium sake.

The third type of sake is called Daiginjo, which is made using an even more extensive milling process than Ginjo. Daiginjo sake has a very light, refined flavour and is also best served chilled. This type of sake is the most expensive and is often reserved for special occasions.

Finally, there is Nigori sake, which is an unfiltered sake that contains some sediment. This type of sake has a cloudy appearance and a sweet, creamy flavour. Nigori sake is best served chilled and is a popular choice for pairing with spicy or rich foods.

You may see the term Nama on a sake label, which indicates unpasteurized sake (that has skipped the heat treatment stages). It comes with a freshness similar to white wine.

The process of making sake has many steps, too many for this article, but this article by Sake Social shows the process with pictures.

Popular Sake Brands

BC's Artisan Sake Maker Junmai Nama sake
BC’s Artisan Sake Maker Junmai Nama sake

Some of the popular Japanese sake brands we can buy in Canada are:

  • Gekkeikan (the one I see most in Japanese restaurants)
  • Dassai
  • Hakutsuru

You can check the range of sake available in BC at this BC Liquor Stores link.  In Canada, we are lucky that besides being able to buy sake from Japan, we also have sake being made here. On Granville Island, in Vancouver, we have Artisan Sake Maker, producing sake in small lots.  Sakemaker Masa Shiroki plants his own rice in different sites in BC to make his sake.

Pairing Food With Sake

When it comes to pairing food with sake, there are a few general rules to follow. First, light-bodied sakes such as Ginjo and Daiginjo pair well with delicate dishes like sushi or sashimi. Second, full-bodied sakes such as Junmai go well with heartier dishes like grilled meats or stews. Third, sweet sakes like Nigori are best paired with spicy or salty foods, as the sweetness helps to balance out the flavours.

It’s also important to consider the temperature of the sake when pairing it with food, as some dishes may be better suited to a chilled sake while others may be better with a warmer sake. Ultimately, the best way to discover the perfect sake and food pairing is through experimentation and personal taste preferences.

Author: mywinepal
Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.

2 thoughts on “Types of Sake and Pairing Food With Sake

  1. Interesting Article. Thanks for sharing
    Just got my acceptance email from Taste Washington Trade Event ( March 11)
    Are you attending too?

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