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BOURGEOIS SAKE

(Junmai Ginjo Shu & Ginjo Shu, Junmai Daiginjo-Shu & Daiginjo Shu)

 OVERVIEW:

Ok, we talked about sake classifications determined by the amount of rice polishing, also known as seimaibuai, Junmai means “Pure Rice” and any category with that word signifies that the sake is made with only rice, water, yeast and Koji, and Koji is a natural fungus that helps the yeast dissolve the rice to kickstart fermentation.

 We also covered the first two levels of the sake category pyramid: Futsu, “Normal Sake,” and Junmai, and the more the rice has been milled, the cleaner, lighter and more delicate the flavor, as opposed to a full body, earthy and drier experience resulting from a sake with a high seimaibuai. Seimaibuai is a percentage representing the amount of the original rice grain that remains after polishing.

 BOURGEOIS SAKE

A refined, clean-cut, eloquent heir to their meaty, rugged ancestors, sake today continues to push the meaning of premium to new heights. I have come across sake with yeast that had been cultivated in space, sake with rice milled down to, or a seimaibuai, of 38% and sparkling sake made in le méthode champenoise, known as the traditional method of champagne making. The ingenuity goes on. If we were to go back in time and presented such sake, would the reaction be of disgust followed by a swift beheading or celebrated as sake god? Marty McFly would be the only one to answer that, so until then, let’s look into the remaining categories of sake: Junmai Ginjo Shu and Ginjo Shu, Junmai Daiginjo-Shu and Daiginjo Shu

Junmai Ginjo Shu and Ginjo Shu

Junmai Ginjo is the next level up from Junmai, where the seimaibuai is a minimum 60%. It can be as high as 51% Anything more would make the sake a Daiginjo, which we’ll discuss later. As any category with the word “Junmai” means that it is made with only four ingredients, whenever “Ginjo” is found within the classification, it refers to a premium level of production, with a higher polishing ratio and, in some cases, better ingredients.

So what’s Ginjo? Since the word Junmai is not found, similar to Futsu, distilled alcohol is added to enhance the fragrance and flavor. The difference between Futsu and Ginjo is, Futsu has copious amounts of pure alcohol distilled from rice added to low cost sake as opposed to the little that Ginjo requires, adding a little more color to the canvas.

 Junmai Daiginjo-Shu and Daiginjo Shu

The top of the pyramid belongs to Daiginjo. The same concept is applied to the Daiginjo’s where the required polishing has to be at least 50%. Junmai Daiginjo is a sake with a seimaibuai of at least half of the grain’s original size, and it is made with only the four ingredients. Daiginjo is made with rice with the same polishing ratio, but has a little distillate added for extra finesse. 

 In conclusion, the top four levels, including Daiginjo and Junmai Daiginjo, of sake are collectively known as Ginjo sake. 

Recalling a note I made in the previous newsletter, there is a big misconception that “quality” is determined by the polishing ratio. Although an efficient road map, at the end of the day, it is all about personal preference. This is certainly true when it comes to food pairing where Junmai will be more appropriate for particular dishes and sauces. Yes, Ginjo sake are more expensive, but that is due to simply the cost of making such sake. When the product is the result of discarding at least 40% of the raw material, cost is affected. All in all, whether Junmai or Daiginjo, it’s all UMAI! DELICIOUS!

 Next up, and finally, everything else in between and beyond!

 KAMPAI!

Kerry

Kerry Tamura is a Chicago native, now LA resident, who so dearly misses 4am liquor licensed bars. 5am on Saturday’s. Reflecting and questioning his direction in life, which would quickly be distracted the moment alcohol was placed in his hands, destiny would have it where he was summoned by his mother to dig the family business out from the verge of bankruptcy as a result of the Great Recession, … and being the only bar in Chicago with no ESPN. From a ”home away from home” karaoke bar catering to Japanese expatriates and business travelers, came the emergence of Murasaki, the city’s only Japanese Sake Lounge. Thus started Kerry’s travels with sake. A ring a ding ding.

Sake Terminology, Classification & Levels

To get you all ready for our special Sake Pairing Event at our Beverly Hills location, we have a little info for you about terminology, classification, and levels brought to you by sake master Kerry Tamura.

TERMINOLOGY, CLASSIFICATIONS and LEVELS 1 & 2

We’ll start by looking at the first two levels of the sake world, but before we dive into the classifications, a brief Japanese language lesson is in order. HAJIMEMASHOU! Let’s begin!

 TERMINOLOGY

"Sake" is an umbrella term encompassing all things alcohol for human consumption. Hence, sake can mean beer, wine and spirits as well, but for ease of our reference, sake will be the drink made from rice. Technically, sake is termed "Nihon-shu" or "Sei-shu." The suffix "Shu" is the Chinese character for "sake" (酒). This character can be read "sake," "zake," or "shu." "Nihon" means Japan, so "Nihon-shu" refers to the traditional alcoholic beverage of Japan. "Sei" in "Sei shu" means clear.

 CLASSIFICATIONS

From what started as milky and very sweet, through evolution, an increase in rice varietals and trial and error over the course of nearly 1,000 years, sake has become incredibly complex and diverse. With the advancement of sake production science and technology, offering more refined products, the market eventually demanded a system to organize an ever changing beverage. Addressing sake consumers’ growing confusion, the government established the polishing of sake rice as the most recognizable and quantifiable criteria to determine classification. Unlike popular European standards where certain words identify wines made within a designated region or aged for a certain time, sake is solely differentiated by how much the rice has been polished.

 Recalling from the first newsletter, sake rice, unlike table rice, has fats and proteins surrounding it’s center which is the starch, containing the true flavor of that particular rice varietal. Since these fats and proteins are generally considered undesirable to the palate, they are polished off with the use of massive milling machines.

 To delve deeper into the classifications, we first start with…

 LEVEL 1: Futsu Shu

"Fustu" means normal. "Normal Sake" or what would be better known as Table Sake consists of three quarters of the sake market, and it is considered non-premium sake. Even though there is no minimum milling requirement, 20% is an industry-wide ratio average for polishing the rice. Futsu is not common in restaurants or on store shelves overseas because it is generally thought of as a product to avoid going through the hassle of exporting when there are far more enhanced options at pretty competitive prices. Futsu is simply enjoyed by the masses in the motherland where there is more variety, just as the French clink their glasses of Vin de Table.

 LEVEL 2: Junmai Shu

"Junmai" translates to "Pure Rice." Junmai sake is polished to 30%, meaning, one third of the rice grain has been polished off. It is made with only four ingredients: Water, Rice, Yeast and Koji. Water, ok. Rice, check. Yeast, got it. Koji… (crickets chirping).

 Koji is a natural fungus, also known as Aspergillus Oryzae. It is an essential ingredient that helps dissolve steamed rice to assist the yeast in breaking down the rice and start fermentation. These four essential ingredients are the building blocks of all things sake. In any sake classification, if the word “Junmai” exists, it signifies that the sake has been made with no more than those four superstar ingredients.

 Futsu is a form of Junmai. There are two main components separating the two. The first is the seimaibuai, or rice polishing ratio. Seimaibuai is the percentage representing the amount of the original rice grain that remains after polishing. The second component is Futsu has a small amount of pure distilled alcohol added to expand volume. The distillate is made from rice. 

 The big misconception, I believe, with such classifications is the notion that, “quality” is determined by the polishing ratio. This may be a quick guide for the public, but it certainly is not to be used as a litmus test for what to buy and avoid. The reason is due to taste preference.

 The science behind the milling is the more the rice is polished, the more starch is used for sake brewing. Recalling the chemical reaction that takes place in alcohol where the starch in rice converts to sugar and sugar into alcohol, if there is more starch to be used, the result will be a sweeter brew. Certainly the alcohol level can continue to rise beyond the average 15-17%, making the sake less sweet, but the sugar is preserved with temperature control and the addition of more ingredients to dilute the fermenting mash.

 The drinking experience with superior polishing sake is generally cleaner, lighter and more delicate in flavor. There may be those who enjoy this particular flavor, but others may not. The preferred drink may be fuller in body, dry and earthy. These traits are more common in sake with a lower polishing ratio. The notion of Junmai sake tasting more “rice-y” is due to there being more fats and proteins from the rice grains included in the brewing of… SAKE!

 Next, we’ll look at what I like to call… Bourgeois Sake.

 KAMPAI!

Kerry

 Kerry Tamura is a Chicago native, now LA resident, who so dearly misses 4am liquor licensed bars. 5am on Saturday’s. Reflecting and questioning his direction in life, which would quickly be distracted the moment alcohol was placed in his hands, destiny would have it where he was summoned by his mother to dig the family business out from the verge of bankruptcy as a result of the Great Recession, … and being the only bar in Chicago with no ESPN. From a ”home away from home” karaoke bar catering to Japanese expatriates and business travelers, came the emergence of Murasaki, the city’s only Japanese Sake Lounge. Thus started Kerry’s travels with sake. A ring a ding ding.

Beverly Hills Sasabune Sake Pairing Event- SOLD OUT

Thank you to all who came in to register for the Sake Pairing Event. We hope to do another one in the future. This event sold out quickly but you can still come and try some of the sakes we have available on any other night (or day, if it’s one of those day drinking kind of days).  

Here is a little about sake by Kerry Tamura:

What Is Sake?

Sake is a brewed beverage made from rice. Not just any rice, but specific varietals of grains appropriate for sake production. In total, there are over 1000 different kinds of rice, where 200 of those are fit for sake production, and 3 dozen or so of the 200 varietals are ideal for premium sake. Just like the wine world where grapes possess particular juices, each rice-type imparts a unique flavor. This is not to be confused with the popular notion that sake is rice wine, for unlike wine, water is an essential ingredient to make sake. Before the addition of water, the naturally occurring alcohol content is around 20%, which is then reduced to 15-17%.
Even though it is brewed, sake is not to be categorized with beer either, since rice is used as opposed to barley or wheat, followed by flavoring with hops. Perhaps the single most interesting characteristic of sake, in addition to its flavor, is the chemistry that takes place when the starch in the rice converts into sugar and the sugar converts into alcohol. Termed as Parallel Fermentation, sake is the only alcoholic beverage that has this reaction taking place within the same container. Hence, sake is simply sake.
An historic beverage, there is archaeological evidence suggesting ancient civilizations dating back 2000 years took rice and made it into alcohol. As sake evolved, the form we all enjoy today is approximately 1000 years old. With the advent and advancement of sake-brewing technology, more premium styles, ginjo and daiginjo, have been gracing our company and meals since the mid 1960’s, which leads us into the next subject.
There are four federally established grades of sake: Futsu-Shu, Junmai-Shu, Ginjo-Shu, Daiginjo-Shu. Shu means alcohol. What mainly separates the grades is the polishing, or milling, of the rice. Unlike table rice, where its biology consists of the starch dominating the entire grain, in sake rice the starch is concentrated in the center, surrounded by fats and proteins on the outer layers. The milling allows those fats and proteins to be stripped away, gaining the brewer more access to the pure flavor of the varietal only found within the starch, better known as shimpaku. The more the rise is milled, the smoother, cleaner and layered the drinking experience will be. Although increased polishing does result in a more expensive product, it is not to be confused with quality. The level of milling, in addition to the use of particular ingredients, are decisions the master brewer makes to achieve a certain flavor that best represents the locality with regards to food and terroir. Terroir is the influence the environment gives to the flavor of a crop.
I hope this sheds a little more light on this super wonderful elixir. Join me as we next explore the four categories of sake, starting with Fustu-Shu.
Until then, kampai on, and on, and on…
Kerry
Kerry Tamura is a Chicago native, now LA resident, who so dearly misses 4am liquor licensed bars. 5am on Saturday’s. Reflecting and questioning his direction in life, which would quickly be distracted the moment alcohol was placed in his hands, destiny would have it where he was summoned by his mother to dig the family business out from the verge of bankruptcy as a result of the Great Recession, … and being the only bar in Chicago with no ESPN. From a ”home away from home” karaoke bar catering to Japanese expatriates and business travelers, came the emergence of Murasaki, the city’s only Japanese Sake Lounge. Thus started Kerry’s travels with sake. A ring a ding ding.
Kerry Tamura
World Sake Imports
Southern California Sales Representative

Sasabune Beverly Hills Lunch & Dinner Specials

Lunch Specials

  • Omakase Lunch Set ($35)- Albacore sashimi salad, 7pcs chef choices “nigiri”, and your choice of a hand roll, with miso soup, & desert.
  • Omakase Don ($25)- Omakase-Don is our version of “Chirashi Sushi”. A variety of chef’s choice fish, on our warm sushi rice, served with your choice of a hand roll, sunomono salad, with miso soup, & desert.

Dinner Set ($50)

  • Albacore tuna sashimi with garlic ponzu sauce
  • Blue fin tuna with “Nikiri” soy sauce (Spain)
  • Blue fin tuna “Toro” (Spain)
  • Halibut with ponzu (Boston)
  • Kanpachi with Yuzu (Kagoshima, Japan)
  • Baked green mussels two ways (New Zealand) OR Grilled miso marinated salmon (Scotland)
  • Yellowtail (Kumamoto, Japan)
  • Salmon with seasoned kelp and toasted sesame (Scotland)
  • Butter fish (black cod) with “Nitsume” sauce (Alaska)
  • Blue Crab hand roll OR Medium fatty tuna “Chu-Toro” hand roll
  • Served with miso soup, small salad, & desert

*Selections may vary. We accommodate dietary restrictions. Please instruct your chef or server.

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