Anthony Rose: 'Sake is a product with its own pedigree and culture'

 

I was discussing the joy of Japanese sake with a couple of wine merchants when one of them turned to me and said disparagingly "but it's made of rice, not grapes", as if that somehow made it a lesser drink.

Sake is a product with its own pedigree and culture. While it has features in common with wine, it needs to be thought of as different from wine for its acquired taste to be enjoyed. With only a fifth of wine's acidity, it has a richness and smoothness of texture that makes it uniquely compatible with food. It can be drunk chilled as well as at room temperature or warm.

A quarter of all sake is premium sake, and premium sake is graded according to the amount the rice grain is reduced, or 'polished'. There are 1,200 active sake breweries in Japan's 46 prefectures. Each brewery makes sake according to the local climate, the type of rice, quality of water – and the owner's objectives.

While consumption in Japan has been in decline for years, there is a welcome revival today based on premium styles, which include cloudy sake, sparkling sake, aged sake, single estate sake, unpasteurised sake and the traditional styles known as yamahai and kimoto championed by Philip Harper, Japan's only English sake master brewer.

Does the buzz mean that sake is on the verge of a breakthrough into the mainstream in the UK? I think so. Although price is an issue (it's inevitably more expensive here than Japan), you'll find fair value in sakes such as Akashi Tai's Daiginjo and Dewazakura's Izumi Judan at Hedonism Wine, while merchants such as Berry Bros, Harvey Nichols and Lea and Sandeman are also starting to sing its virtues.

Reporting that sake sales are running at five per cent of all drink sales, the Hakkasan Group is offering a new consumer course at Sake No Hana; it's run by its buyer Christine Parkinson and yours truly at the bargain price of £60 for a morning with eight sakes to taste, a guide, goodie bag and an excellent lunch (contact alix@hakkasan.com).

Just three months ago, Oliver Hilton-Johnson became the first Englishman to set up a sake-importing business in the UK. Tengusake.com is a brilliantly lucid site which not only explains sake in simple terms, but also has a style guide to help you sort out what's for you, with some smart six-bottle sake selections at fair prices. "There's a definite groundswell of interest in sake," says Hilton-Johnson, who didn't much like sake when he first tried it in Japan, but is now so hooked that he gave up the day job to bring it to the UK.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable