About Sake

Sake (Nihonshu)

Sake is an alcoholic beverage made from rice and water – a nature’s blessing from Japan, a country, which there are four seasons. Like wine, sake is a type of fermented liquor and it goes well with many kinds of dishes, so it is referred to as “rice wine” in overseas.

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History of Sake

Sake has a long history. Production of sake in Japan started around 2000 years ago which is about the same time as rice farming began. The current sake production method was established more than 1,000 years ago. Sake seemed to have been produced from around the year 1350 in the area of Nada, but commercial production started after the 1620s.

Types of Sake

There is such a great variety of sakes that it can match with any dish. Tokutei Meisho-shu (special designation sake), the sake classification by the Japanese government, has 8 categories according to raw materials and seimai-buai (the degree of milling or “polishing” rice). Included in the categories, to name a few, are “ginjo-shu,” in which fruity aroma can be enjoyed and “junmai-shu,” in which the rich and savory flavor of rice can be tasted. Broader categories of sake include “shiboritate,” freshly pressed sake and “nama-zake,” which is unpasteurized sake. There are in fact so many different types of sake that even Japanese people find it hard to remember them all. So find out your favorite sake (or sakes, of course!)

Taste and Flavor of Sake

One of the characteristics of sake is that its taste and flavor change at different temperatures. Sakes can be served in a broad range of temperatures - from as cold as 5°C to as hot as 55°C. When you feel like unwinding, "atsukan" or hot sake will be a good choice (at around 55°C). Another choice is "Hiyazake," that is, cold sake (at 10°C or so) which lets you feel refreshed during the hot season. Why not enjoy sakes at different temperatures according to your mood or climate? We recommend trying sakes with different temperatures or types according to the seasonal dishes of your choice.

Sake of Nada

Hyogo prefecture ranks first in the production of sake in Japan. “Nada-Gogo”, located in this prefecture, is renowned as the best sake production region in Japan. “Nada Gogo” refers to the five adjacent sake-brewing areas situated between Osaka and Kobe, accommodating a large number of sake breweries and shops.
There are three reasons why Nada-no sake or sake produced in Nada is so great. It involves water, rice and technique.

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  • Water

    Water used for the sake production in Nada is called miyamizu. Exceptionally suitable for making sake, miyamizu has always been used for Nada-no sake (sake produced in Nada) from long ago. Miyamizu is hard water with low iron content, which adversely affects the quality of sakes. It also has ample amounts of minerals such as potassium and phosphoric acid. Miyamizu gives sakes a refreshing taste and flavor.

  • Rice

    "Yamada Nishiki" is a rice variety which is perfectly suited to sake production that it is called "the king of sake rice." Hyogo Prefecture is famous for the farming of Yamada Nishiki, and Nada breweries make sake using this top quality sake rice. Another feature of Yamada Nishiki is that it goes well with miyamizu.

  • Techniques

    Another reason why sake made in Nada is great lies in the sake production techniques.
    The head of the sake brewers in each brewery is called a toji. The toji working in Nada are well known as “Tanba toji,” which is one of the three major toji groups in Japan. With their many years of experience and sake brewing skills, the Tanba toji are indispensable to Nada breweries for their complex and delicate sake making.