The term ‘sake’ is Japanese terminology. It is also known as Japanese rice wine. It is a traditional Japanese alcoholic beverage that is oftentimes confused with actual wine. However, this is nothing but a misconception.
Sake occupies a separate position in the list of alcoholic drinks. Just like beer, wine, whisky, and others, sake is, well, sake.
The result is a yellow-colored beverage based on water with a sweet taste often served as beverages with warm and freshly made food. These beverages can be served as both hot and cold in temperature.
However, this depends on brands, alcohol percentage, and other factors as every type have a different quality, serving temperature, and food pairing.
Many Japanese people are too guilty of making this mistake of considering sake as the same as wine. Hence, as a newbie, if you have been confused about the difference between Sake and wine, we’re here to help you out.
In this article, a detailed description of the same has been focused upon. Keep reading to learn more!
Table of Contents
- Japanese Sake and Wine – The Difference
- Brewing Process – The Difference
- Rice Preparation
- Way of Koji Rice Production
- Pressing and Filtration
- Bottling and Aging
- Alcohol Content Difference
- Health Benefits of Japanese Sake and Wine: Same or Different?
- How to Serve Sake Versus Wine?
- Types of Wine and Sakes
- Types of Sakes
- Summing Up – Sake vs Wine
Japanese Sake and Wine – The Difference
The main point of difference between Japanese sake and wine is the fermentation process used in each case. While sake, a Japanese rice wine, needs multiple fermentation to be made, the wine needs only a single fermentation process.
The glucose sugar from grapes is used to ferment wines. However, forsake, rice which is a grain, is utilized. It thus needs a separate process of converting starch into sugars. This makes the fermentation of sake very similar to the beer brewing process.
However, what is unique about sake is that the fermentation and starch-to-sugar conversion is done in the same tank. This is known as parallel multiple fermentation processes. In fact, sake is the only alcohol in the world to be fermented in this manner.
The textures of both are sweet and dry.
Brewing Process – The Difference
The parallel multiple fermentation processes mentioned above are only a single step towards making sake. In fact, expert sake brewers in Japan end up spending some years trying to master the art of making this rice-containing alcohol drink.
Listed below are some steps that are taken during the brewing process of sake in comparison to wine.
The first step in preparing sake is the preparation of the rice. Like the use of grapes in the wine-making process, there are numerous rice options available for the use of Japanese sake making. However, in contrast to grapes, rice does need added preparation time.
Post-harvest, the rice goes through a process of milling, also known as rice polishing. This includes taking brown rice out of its shell. Although wonderful in terms of nutrition, these shells obstruct the sake production process.
On the contrary, the part where grapes are prepared in the making of wine involves only crushing and pressing the fruit.
Way of Koji Rice Production
One of the most significant differences between the articles contained in sake and wine is koji rice. To make this, the sake brewer is required to move a part of the steamed rice into a utensil known as the Koji-Muro. This allows the koji to develop.
In a few days, the table rice is spread and topped with spores. The starch is then broken down into glucose over the next few days and weeks.
Once this is complete, it is transferred into a tank with yeast, steamed rice, and warm water for fermentation.
Pressing and Filtration
Once fermentation is done, both wine and sake go through clarification and filtration. Once pressed, the sake is usually kept aside.
It is often pasteurized too after this to remove the active enzymes for clarity.
Wine, on the other hand, can be filtered by using coarse and soft filters. Unlike the sake makers, many wine brewers tend to add elements such as egg-white, etc., to the fruit drink. This is known as the fining process to enhance the flavorings and taste.
Bottling and Aging
Bottling and aging is the final step for both wine and sake. Sake is mostly aged for up to 6 months. However, in certain cases, it may even be aged for 3-5 years. This depends on how it has been brewed and the quality and quantity of water and other elements added to it.
For wine, bottling and aging may not always be done in barrels. Besides, the whole process may take up to 1-2 years.
Alcohol Content Difference
The alcohol content of Japanese sake ranges between 15-16 percent. On the other hand, wine has an alcohol content of 12-14 percent.
This indicates that in terms of alcohol content, the two are very similar to one another. Some exceptions are, however, always there depending upon the brand. These exceptions include the undiluted Genshu sake and sparkling sake.
While the undiluted Genshu sake brand is high in alcohol levels ranging up to 18-20 percent, sparkling sake can lie between 5-6 percent.
Health Benefits of Japanese Sake and Wine: Same or Different?
The health benefits of the two are very similar to one another. It includes the following:
Prevention of Cancer
The Japanese sake contains amino acids that strengthen one’s immunity and activate the brain. These amino acids also enable the prevention of cancer. Additionally, sake Kasu which is the byproduct of pressing production, activates a killer cell.
This is called the lymphocyte, which is known to kill any cancer-spreading cells.
Prevention of Premature Aging
The enzymes and amino acids are known to constitute anti-aging advantages. They can also help in lowering the risk of heart problems and osteoporosis, especially in women. Women can do so due to a specific female hormone present in them whose release is often supported by consumption of sake.
Increases Good Cholesterol Levels
Consumption of food with high levels of fatty acids can cause cholesterol issues and heart problems. However, with the consumption of rice wine, this problem can be solved considerably. Sake leads to a rise in high-density lipoprotein in one’s blood.
How to Serve Sake Versus Wine?
A glass of sake and a wine glass can be served at varying temperatures. The temperature difference is, however, striking. Red and white wine is usually served at relatively higher temperatures. In contrast to this, Sake is served as both hot and cold.
Drinking sake warm has been an ancient tradition in Japan. In fact, warming sake is known to conceal flavors of cedar from the aging process. Nowadays, heating sake is a process used more with and at cheaper sake brands and breweries.
Hot sake is heated up in a porcelain bottle, also known as tokkuri in Japan. It is then served to the drinkers in small ceramic cups, also known as ochoko in the Japanese language.
Tasting the Drink
For tasting wine, something known as the tulip-shaped wine glass is used. One starts by sniffing the beverage’s aroma directly from the glass. This is followed by the wines’ swirling, which allows the wine to come in contact with air.
In contrast to this, for sake tasting, one is advised to use a kikichoko cup. The process of swirling is not included here. Instead, there is a greater focus on the quality of the retronasal smell than the orthonasal smell in Japan.
Types of Wine and Sakes
While various wine options such as red wine, white wine, and sparkling wine are commonly known and heard about, people are usually less familiar with the differences in different kinds of sakes.
As a result, listed below are some sake options that you must know of. Most of these sakes are the same in terms of content but different in serving temperatures and quality.
Types of Sakes
Daiginjo sake is prevalent in Japan. It is known to have a strong scent. In these types of alcoholic beverages, one is highly unlikely to come across an after-taste. The brewing process followed here is known as Ginjo. It is known to produce a high-quality drink with a pristine taste.
Junmai is a pure form of sake beverages. It contains no alcohol additives. Additionally, around 70% of the drink consists of polished rice grain. It has a strong taste and is high on acidity levels. One well-known type in Japan is the Hana Awaka Sparkling Sake.
The sake brewers used to make Honjozo are like that of the Junmai drink. In fact, a small amount of alcohol is added to it to make things smooth in nature. This drink is served warm and is sweet in flavor.
Summing Up – Sake vs Wine
Sakes that are often confused with wine are actually very different in nature. Some of these differences lie mainly in terms of the brewing process, the alcohol content, the varieties, and the articles included in the drink.
Depending upon one’s preference, some people prefer to have a sake rather than wine, and vice-versa. If you prefer a low head-spinning alcohol level, then certain sake brands are a good option for you. However, if not, you can always search for drinks with high alcohol content. This could either be a sake, or you could stick to conventional wine options.