Fumi Nakatani's Guide to Sake

Fumi Nakatani says sake should always be sipped. Picture / Supplied

Masu restaurant manager Fumi Nakatani has recently been awarded an international qualification in sake from the London-based Wine & Spirit Education Trust - the first and only New Zealand professional to do so.

Here he demystifies this Japanese rice wine, which is made from the fermentation of rice and water, and offers some advice on the etiquette of drinking it.

Fumi recommends keeping it to two or three styles - but also to be a little adventurous with your palate.

Kimoto and Yamahai
"If you hear these words, your sake will have a complex and full structure. Sake brewers add commercial lactic acid to help the yeast activate and kill bacteria but Kimoto or Yamahai methods wait for the bacteria from the air to infect the fermented rice mash so it takes almost double length of fermentation. During this process yeast and bacteria create a complex taste. It all sounds a bit clinical, but trust us, the taste is all that really matters in the end."

"This style of sake is normally diluted by adding water at the end of production, however, genshu (which means original sake) is not diluted so it tends to have higher alcohol content."

"Most sakes are pasteurised (heated) twice before storage and before shipment. If you hear the word 'nama' this means the sake may not be pasteurised at all or only just once before the shipment (nama chozo), which gives the sake a fresh, fruity flavour with a sweet aroma."

"This is pure rice sake. This classification of sake means the rice used has been polished to at least 70 per cent, the other 30 per cent of which has been polished off. This type of sake has a rich full body with an intense, slightly acidic flavour. Junmai is best served warm or at room temperature."

There's a lot to know about sake etiquette and tradition of sake, Fumi says. But to keep things simple, the basic rules are:

1. You should never pour your own sake.
"As far as traditions go, you should always pour for your superior, then your child or employee should always pour for you."

2. Like wine, sake should always be sipped.
"This is considered more elegant than drinking your whole cup at one time."

3. Traditionally, sake is enjoyed from a small wooden box called the Masu box.
"A small sake glass or dessert wine glass is placed inside the Masu box and the sake is then poured in the glass until it overflows into the box. This is a tradition in Japan by where you should always give more than the glass can hold – reflecting abundance and prosperity."

Masu is at 90 Federal St, Auckland Central.

Share this article: