How to choose sake

I am Mr. Kitayama, a master of sake brewing. Continuing from the last time, I will talk about various things in reference to "How to choose sake". Let us look at what indicators will lead to what type of tastes this time.

Sake meter value (SMV)

It is said that the extent of sweetness or dryness of Japanese sake can be quantified. However, it should be only considered as one indicator since how you feel about sweetness changes depending on the degree of acidity and alcohol content. Since buoyancy is determined by reference to the weight of the liquid, the liquid with a higher specific gravity floats more easily. You can see that sugar remains in liquids with a higher specific gravity. Sugar is heavier than alcohol which has a higher numerical value. Therefore, you can basically say that the lower the number is, the sweeter the sake is. The higher proportion that changes into alcohol, the drier the sake is. If you like sweet sake, you may choose one with a minus sign. On the other hand, if you like dry sake, you can choose one with an alcohol value of +5 or more. Actually, it does not mean that dry sake is good sake even though there is a boom in dry sake and it is a trend now that dry sake is good. Why don't you try looking for a sake taste that suits you?

Acidity

Sake contains 80% of the four main organic acids. The four types of acids are succinic acid, malic acid, citric acid, and lactic acid. Although each acid tastes different, the concentration of these acids affects the acidity. When the acidity is 1 or less, it indicates that the acid level is low, so it gives a soft and smooth impression. On the other hand, when it is 1.8 or more, you can feel a strong acidity. The exuding acid gives a distinctive impression although it feels stiff when drinking. The degree of acid may help you to find your favorite sake.

Amino Acidity

Amino acidity is the representation of the total amount of amino acids. The higher the amino acid level, the thicker the taste becomes. Amino acid does not only mean the feeling of umami. It also leads to bitterness and sourness. Inosinic acid and glutamic acid are typical examples of flavor components present. People who like ramen should be well-versed with these two delicious ingredients. They are also used in the ramen industry. For fitness lovers, the standard three important essential amino acids – valine, leucine, and isoleucine have a bitter feeling. The amount of amino acid is small if the indicator is around 1.0. You can firmly taste the umami when the indicator is around 1.5. It will have a rather heavy taste if the indicator exceeds 2.0. It is common in aged sake.

Alcohol by volume (ABV)

A difference in taste also occurs depending on the Alcohol by volume (ABV). When the Alcohol by volume (ABV) is high such as 18 degrees or more, the sake feels dry. When the degree is low, there is a big difference whether undiluted sake (Genshu) or water is added. Genshu does not have water added after squeezing the moromi, so the taste will be firm even if the Alcohol by volume (ABV) is low. On the other hand, sake which has a low Alcohol by volume (ABV) due to the addition of water will have a refreshing taste impression.

Rice-polishing ratio

Change in taste is also dependent on how much the rice is polished. Rice contains a lot of protein and lipids on the outside while the pure starch value increases into the center of the rice. As proteins change into various amino acids, the sake will have a stronger flavor. On the other hand, sake which is made from rice that is highly polished tends to have a beautiful clarity.

Let us look at what taste will work based on the numbers above.

Sweetness

Ippin sake

High sake meter value (SMV) is weak ⇔ Low sake meter value (SMV) is strong

Low amino acid degree is weak ⇔ High amino acid degree is strong

Acidity

Ippin sake

Low acid is weak ⇔ High acid is strong

Low amino acid degree is weak ⇔ High amino acid degree is strong

Umami

Ippin sake

Low amino acidity is weak ⇔ High amino acidity is strong

High sake meter value (SMV) is weak ⇔ Low sake meter value (SMV) is strong

Highly polished is weak ⇔ Low polish is strong

Dryness

Ippin sake

Low sake meter value (SMV) is weak ⇔ High sake meter value (SMV) is strong

Low alcohol by volume (ABV) is weak ⇔ High alcohol by volume (ABV) is strong

Bitterness

Ippin sake

Low amino acidity is weak ⇔ High amino acidity is strong

Highly polished is weak ⇔ Low polish is strong

I will only mention the taste this time. Actually, it is easy to feel the sweetness or sourness just by the aroma. You can feel the sweetness of something while smelling a sweet scent even if you are eating something tasteless.

I will speak until here for this time. I hope everyone can spend your days with a good sake.

Thank you very much for reading.

どうもありがとうございました。

About the Author
kitayama

Hideto KITAYAMA was born in 1978 in Nada Ward, Hyogo Prefecture which is a famous region for Japanese sake. His grandfather was in love and crazy about sake. Because the sake gene that he carries, he started his pub (Izakaya) and a liquor shop business from the age of 30. After he tasted more than 2000 kinds of sake per year, his sake knowledge and skills have improved. He has certificates of Kiki sake-shi, International Kiki sake-shi and sake Lecturer. To fulfill his dream which is introducing traditional Japanese sake culture to the world, he is performing many kinds of activities such as organizing sake events, sake business consulting and selling sake online globally on Ippin platform.

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