Japan's rice wine

16 October, 2014

So when do people drink sake? The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association lists eight occasions throughout the year, including Momo-no-sekku, “the peach festival” on March 3, when elaborate displays of special dolls are set up in “honour of little girls and are toasted with momozake (peach sake) in the hope that they will grow to be healthy adults. In recent years shirozake (cloudy sake) or amazake (sweet sake) has been gaining in popularity over the traditional momozake”.

October 1 is International Sake Day while Yukimizake is a custom – believed to date back to the tenth century – of drinking sake while gazing upon an inspiring snowy landscape.

Types of sake:


Ginjo-shu is made with rice grains from which more than 40% of the outer layer has been removed by milling. Fermentation occurs at lower temperatures and takes longer. Distilled alcohol equivalent to up to 10% of the weight of the polished rice may be added.


Daiginjo-shu is a form of ginjo-shu made with even more highly polished rice from which at least 50% of the outer layer of the grain has been removed. 

Junmai, Tokubetsu junmai 

Made only from rice, koji and water, highlighting the flavour of the rice and koji more than other varieties. Junmai-shu is typically high in acidity and umami, with relatively little sweetness.

Junmai ginjo 

Because ginjo brewing techniques are used in making junmai ginjo-shu, the acidity and umami are toned down and there is a clear ginjo-ka.

Junmai daiginjo 

Junmai daiginjo-shu is regarded as the highest-grade sake. The best products in this class deliver a good blend of refined taste with acidity and umami.


In honjozo-shu, the emphasis is on flavour and there is little ginjo-ka or ageing-induced aroma. It has a reasonable level of acidity and umami and rather than asserting the aroma and taste of the sake itself, it helps to bring out the
taste of food.

Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association

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