The biddies head to Japan to discuss sake! A wine made from rice with many styles, the biddies do their best to not completely butcher Japanese (and fail, of course). Grab a glass of sake, chilled or warmed, and join us.


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Study Notes for Sake:

*Please note some of these lines might be directly taken from sources noted above.


  • National beverage of Japan
  • Fermented rice beverage, typically referred to as rice wine
  • Brewed using polished sake mai rice, water and a mold (aspergillus oryzae) and yeast
  • 15-20% alcohol


  • 2nd century BC brewing technique with rice brought to Japan from China
  • 3rd century CE first record mentioning the existence of sake in Japan
    •  A 3rd century historical Chinese document stated, “People in Japan drink sake. They drink it in groups when they are mourning”. The first domestic record appears in an 8th century history book
  • 689: Sake brewing division established in the Imperial Court
  • 715: first record of sake brewing using mold
  • 10th Century: Code of practice “Engishiki” details the processes of sake brewing and outlines a ranking system based on the brewing method
    • Clear sake reserved for upper class
    • Poor classes had “unrefined, murky sake”
  • 1425: 342 sake related businesses recorded in Tokyo
    • Brewers specializing in make sake under their own trade names first appeared in the 13th century, overtaking religious producers by the 16th century
  • 1569: brewers start using a heat-based disinfection method (pasteurization) – 300 years before Louis Pasteur
  • 1600s: Sake production takes a strong hold in Itami
  • 1850s: discovery of miyamizu in Nishinomiya brings sake production there (water ideal for brewing sake)
  • 1872: first export of sake
  • 1878: first official bottling of sake (as opposed to other vessels)
  • 1990: new sake brewing quality label standards


  • Rice is a staple grain in Japan – often offered to the gods, as well as rice cakes and sake
    • Bottles of sake often left at Shinto shrines
  • Meant to bring people together – at a traditional Japanese wedding, the bride and groom each share three cups of sake
  • New Year tradition: families share an “o-toso” or sake infused with medicinal herbs to ask for health and prosperity in the new year
  • World Sake Day is October 1


  • Information required:
    • Product name
    • Producer’s name
    • Producer’s address
    • Net content
    • Alcohol content
    • Ingredients
    • Date of production
    • Legal Statement on drinking (legal drinking age is 20)


  • POLISHING – rice grains are run through a milling machine that strips away the outer and some of the inner layer to expose starchy cores
    • Milling rate determines type of sake
  • WASHING –  remove excess particles and protein residuals; impurities would affect the quality and taste
  • SOAKING – adds moisture to the grain
  • STEAMING – helps bring out the starch molecules in the grain as well as sterilize
  • SACCHARIFICATION – koji mold is sprinkled and and massaged into rice to convert starch to sugar
  • MOTO/YEAST STARTER – made of koji rice, water, yeast and lactic acid is added to super charge fermentation
  • MOROMI/MAIN MASH – saccharficiatiuon and fermentation happen simultaneously when all is added 
  • PRESSING – unfermented rice particles are removed
  • FILTERING – charcoal filtered to remove unwanted and damaging elements
  • PASTEURIZATION – unless its a nama; either flash steamed or run through a pipe submerged in super heated water twice
  • DILUTING – add filtered water to end product to bring down ABV


  • Junmai – pure unadulterated sake and no brewers alcohol is added to it
    • No additional starch or sugar is added either 
    • Uses Seimai Buai of a minimum of 70% of milled rice meaning that no more than 70% of the rice maintain its original size; only about 30% of the rice grain has its outer layer removed
    • Full, rich body and higher acid level as compared to some other types
    • Not very fragrant and is often served hot
  • Ginjo – 40% milled; 60% retain original size
    • Delicate, light flavor with “wonderful” aroma
    • Best served cold and very labor intensive to make
    • Uses a special yeast
  • Daiginjo – rice is milled between 35-50%
    • Alcohol is high on fragrance, full body, delicate taste
  • Honjozo – 70% of grain retains its original size
    • Made by adding brewers alcohol and is not as potent as sake that is made without the addition of alcohol
    • A light smooth body and flavor
    • Ideally served warm
  • Tokoubetsu Honjozo
  • Namazake – the alcohol is not pasteurized and all types can be this type
    • Needs to be refigerated


  • Hakusan
  • Yamagata
  • Nadagogo
  • Harima
  • Mie


  • Can be served warm or cold
  • Nicer sakes are typically chilled, rougher ones are served warm


  • Pairs nicely with acidic foods (like salads and pickled foods) because it is lower in acidity itself (lower than wine)
  • Rich amino acid content brings out flavors from food
  • Pairing rules:
    • Match the aroma of the sake with the aroma of the food
    • Match the flavor intensity – intense dishes should be paired with more rich sake
    • Fresh, young sake with fresh/raw food and aged sake with aged foods like cheese and pickles


  • Consumption and popularity is in decline
  • Seen as their fathers or grandfathers drink 
  • 15-20 small breweries closing annually