GLOSSARY OF COMMON SAKE TERMS
Sake can be a complex topic, here are some of more common terms relating to this sensational beverage:
Arabashiri = ‘rough run’. This is the free run of the fresh sake liquid, captured before the actual pressing begins. The sacks full of fresh sake [liquid and solids together] are arranged in the tubs and the sake slowly seeps out due to the natural weight of the contents of the sacks and the liquid is bottled directly.
Daiginjō is one of the Japanese classifications of sake. To be classified daiginjō the rice grain must be polished down to 50% or less of it’s original size (it must also meet the quality requirements that the sake has a good flavour, colour and luster).
Ginjō is one of the Japanese classifications of sake. To be classified ginjō the rice grain must be polished down to 60% or less of it’s original size (it must also meet the quality requirements that the sake has a good flavour, colour and luster).
Genmai = brown rice. Genmai-zake = brown rice sake, but the ‘s’ becomes a ‘z’ to make the pronunciation easier.
Genshu = undiluted. Many sake are diluted with water after brewing to lower the alcohol content from 18-20% down to 14-16%, but genshu means that no extra water has been added.
Junmai = 100% pure rice sake without any additives such as ethyl alcohol [often known as brewers alcohol], sugars and starches. Junmai is sake made of rice, water, yeast and kōji-kin only. Before the law change in April 2004, the rice had to be milled down to 70% at least but now junmai no longer requires a specific milling rate. However, the amount milled away must still be listed on the label by Japanese law.
Kijōshu = ‘Noble-Brew Sake’. Generally aged before being sold. To make kijōshu, the Tōji does not add distilled alcohol, but instead a full-bodied sake from previous years is added to a still fermenting batch, bringing the fermentation to an early halt. There are some similarities in production technique to that of port wine, although the kijōshu technique has a much longer history.
Kōji-kin is a starch-breaking mould with the Latin name ‘Aspergillus Oryzae’ that coats the rice with a white, very fragrant outer layer that produces enzymes to convert the rice starch to sugar.
Kura = can mean many types of shop, but when used in sake terms it means the Sake Brewery.
Kurabito = Sake Brewery workers
Kuramoto = Owner of the Sake Brewery
Koshu = aged sake. Many people have the misconception that Sake cannot be aged and at one point even sake breweries also believed this, until unsold or forgotten stock that was left in the corners of the breweries, were opened and their unique character was discovered.
Meigara = brand. Most sake breweries produce many types of sake, so they tend to give each a unique name. An example is Mukai Shuzō ‘Ine Mankai’. The Mukai Shuzō is the brewery name and ‘Ine Mankai’ is the meigara or brand name.
Muroka = no charcoal filtration. This sake has been pressed and separated from the lees, but hasn’t been filtered with carbon.
Nama = unpasteurised. Namazake = unpasteurised sake, but the ‘s’ becomes a ‘z’ to make the pronunciation easier.
Nigori = cloudy. The sake is passed through a loose mesh to separate it from the mash but it is then not filtered further and so the sake retains sediment from both rice and kōji in the finished sake. In this case of ‘Usunigori’ the result is only ‘lightly cloudy,’ where the lightest part of the sediment is left in from the soft pressing of the sacks filled with fresh sake [liquid and solids together].
Nigorizake = cloudy sake, but the ‘s’ becomes a ‘z’ to make the pronunciation easier.
Nihonshu = ‘Japanese Sake’. The word ‘sake’ in Japanese actually refers to all alcoholic beverages, but outside of Japan when we use the word sake we are referring to the alcoholic beverage made from rice.
Prefecture: The country of Japan is broken down into 47 locally governed units called prefectures. 39 of these prefectures are bordered in some way by ocean or sea, leaving only 8 prefectures landlocked.
Shuzō = Sake brewery, for example: Mukai Shuzō means Mukai Sake Brewery.
Tōji = Master Brewer / Head Sake Brewer