Added: 16 Jan 2013
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In addition to the specific types, sake is classified as super premium sake Ginjo-shu, premium sake Tokutei meishoshu, and normal sake Futsuu-shu.
The term Ginjo-shu, in addition to identification of the type of sake, represents also the class of super premium sake with Junmai Daiginjo-shu, Junmai Ginjo-shu, Ginjo-shu, and Daiginjo-shu. These 4 types represent approx. 6% of the whole production and are considered the top of the art of sake. They are distinctive by their better quality, odour, complex character, and naturally the price.
The premium sake is named in Japan by the common special name Tokutei Meishoshu. This group includes, in addition to Junmai-shu and Honjozo-shu, also the super premium sake – Junmai Daiginjo-shu, Junmai Ginjo-shu, Ginjo-shu, Daiginjo-shu. In the premium class, approximately one fifth of all made sake is produced. The names of super premium and premium sake, and the overall indetification of all types may seem rather complicated to us. In any case, you may read the labels on bottles and ask for information about the quality of sake in specialized stores.
Sake is made of highly polished rice (to 60% of the grain size), however, without adding any alcohol. In processing, only traditional tools are used. The flavour is light, fruit-like, pure.
It creates the junmai ginjo-shu sub-group, and is made of highly polished rice (to 50% of its size). The basis of the correct flavour and aroma is the precise work. No alcohol is added into the mixture. It is distinctive by its light character, but composite flavour.
Junmai-shuis a pure rice beverage. This sake is made as a combination of polished rice (minimum to 70 % of the grain size), water, and koji mould without adding any alcohol. The resulting product is typical by its full, balanced flavour and higher acidity. If even more milled rice or a special type of sake rice is used for production, it is identified as Tokubetsu Junmai-shu sake.
This sake is made of highly polished rice grains (to 60% of their size), fermentation is carried out for longer time and under lower temperatures. Ginjo–shu is a product of purely traditional processes, using no machines for production. A small volume of alcohol is added into the mixture. The resulting product is lighter, aromatic, delicate with fruit aroma.
The ginjo-shu category is made of highly polished rice (minimum to 50 % of the grain size), and a small volume of alcohol is added into the mixture. It is distinctive by its light but composite flavour. It belongs to the best and most expensive sake.
A small volume of pure distillate is added into the rice, water, and koji, which balances the flavour and aroma, making it finer. Generally, it is sweeter and is most frequently drunk hot. For Tokubetsu Honjozo-shu sake, more milled rice grains or special types of sake rice are used.
The small volume of alcohol, that is added in the end of the fermentation process into certain types of premium sake, extracts aromatic and flavour component from the mixture.
In addition to the premium sake, there are also common or normal sake named Futsuu-shu. They are cheaper because they are not of such excellent quality as the premium sake. That group could be compared with our common table wine. It is represented by the remaining production of the Japanese rice beverage, i.e. approximately 80 % of all produced sake. When compared with the premium sake, an important ingredient is larger volume of the pure distillate in order to increase the interest in, and the sales of, Futsuu-shu.
The quality of the normal sake differs also inside that group. The more expensive Futsuu-shu has pleasant flavour, medium quality, and more distinctive aroma. The cheaper Futsuu-shu have lower quality, bitter unpleasant flavour, no or quite bad aroma. In worst cases, acids and large volume of sugar are added into the cheap sake. However, it would not be reasonable to put all Futsuu-shu into one bag. The better ones are not bad at all. You will not find any preserving agents or artificial colour in sake.
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