Why wine colum­nist and sake som­me­lier, Kyoko Nakayama, feels this widely loved Ja­panese brew trumps your favourite Bur­gundy come din­ner­time

T. Dining by Singapore Tatler - - Sip Bar None -

When din­ing out or choos­ing a bot­tle from a liquor shop, what would you pick to have with your meal? If you’ve al­ways gone with your favourite va­ri­etals, guided by the sim­ple for­mula of pair­ing reds with meat or game and whites with seafood, you might want to con­sider some­thing less rigid or con­ven­tional. Why sake, you ask? Well, like the curse of type­cast­ing Western wines once en­dured, many of­ten think sake only goes with Ja­panese food. This is not true.

In fact, it’s ver­sa­til­ity is one of its most over­looked qual­i­ties.

Sake is made us­ing par­al­lel multi-stage fer­men­ta­tion, which is unique to East Asia. Fer­men­ta­tion of fruit wines is de­pen­dent on the sug­ars in­her­ent in grapes, but rice, which is used to make sake, only con­tain starch—so there is also the need to do sac­cha­r­i­fi­ca­tion (the process of break­ing a com­plex car­bo­hy­drate into sug­ars), then fer­men­ta­tion turns the sugar gen­er­ated from starch into al­co­hol. Also unique is the fact that th­ese two re­ac­tions are hap­pen­ing at the same time, so as to achieve a high al­co­hol con­tent. This pro­ce­dure gen­er­ates more umami com­pared to Western wine. In con­trast, be­cause sake is made from grain, it is usu­ally low in acid­ity re­sult­ing in a very smooth drink that goes with a wide va­ri­ety of foods. It also brings to the ta­ble added umami and a nat­u­ral sweet­ness to the dish.


Of course, there is noth­ing wrong with pair­ing white wines—and even se­lected reds, de­pend­ing of the dish—with seafood. But if you have strug­gled with your wine tast­ing a lit­tle fishy, there is a good ex­pla­na­tion, in­volv­ing the ox­i­da­tion of DHA and EPA found in seafood, the re­sult­ing per­ox­ide lipid, and its re­ac­tion to iron found in wine (which is gen­er­ated by the high min­eral con­tent of the soil). Th­ese re­ac­tions lead to the for­ma­tion of 2,4-Hep­ta­di­enal, which is the source of fishi­ness.

In con­trast, tra­di­tional sake mak­ing uses soft wa­ter that is low in min­eral con­tent.

Iron in par­tic­u­lar is avoided as it will ruin the qual­ity of sake. As such, iron con­tent in sake is cus­tom­ar­ily very low.


Sim­i­larly, it is said that meat and red wine is the best com­bi­na­tion. But, nowa­days, peo­ple are start­ing to pair their food and wine more freely. And if we take what we’ve learned about sake, we can un­der­stand why its com­ple­men­tary qual­i­ties make for an equally won­der­ful pair­ing, al­low­ing the dif­fer­ent di­men­sions of meat to shine. And let’s not for­get, it of­fers more umami com­pared to wine, and can add an­other layer of umami to the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Some wine con­nois­seurs might ar­gue that red wine con­tains tan­nins, which is im­por­tant as it helps to cut through the fat­ti­ness and

The mak­ing of qual­ity sake in­volves a unique par­al­lel multi-stage fer­men­ta­tion process that gen­er­ates high al­co­hol con­tent and more umami

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