Wine Tips


‘Don’t be deceived by the crystal-clear looking liquid, Sulo!

You WILL get drunk on these if you drink it the same way as you do your wines!’ was what my dear friend Logan said to me the first time I tried this yummy beverage. And it became one of my favourite go to drinks every time I have Japanese food or even Chinese!

So, when our import partner asked if we would like to host a sake masterclass by Saito I said yes without hesitation! Sake is becoming more popular these couple of years. And the masterclass was conducted by the sales manager of international sales from Saito Japan, Daiki Tojo.

Saito sake is fully imported from Kyoto and it is unique because the brewing area, located in Fushimi (the southern part of Kyoto), has an abundance of underground water source. The mineral content in the water plays a huge role in the final product; water being one of the most important element in the sake brewing process which is used from washing the grains to the dilution of the final product. Hence, excellent water quality is essential.

Here’s a little info about sake making.

Sake is made from fermented rice, Koji and water. Usually Saka Mai (Sake Rice) or shuzō kōtekimai (sake brewing suitable rice) is used for brewing sake. The grain is larger and stronger than normal rice and they’re not suitable for eating, being only used for sake making. Sake rice are polished to a much higher degree than rice used for eating and this is because the outer layers of the rice contains more fats, vitamins and protein that would lead to off flavours. Only the starchy part of the rice would be used to brew sake and most sake bottles has the rice polishing ratio printed on its label.

For example, polishing ratio of 70% means that 30% of the rice has been polished off leaving 70% of the original grain. As a result, sake that’s been highly polished eg. 25% is more expensive than the less polished due to more rice being used. But that doesn’t mean they taste better or are of higher quality than the less polished ones. And our tasting event proves that it all depends on individual liking and preference.

There are 4 main grades in sake – Junmai, Honjozo, Ginjo, Daiginjo

And they are rated as below from highest to lowest:

1. Junmai Daiginjō-shu – Polishing ratio: Below 50%

2. Daiginjō-shu – Polishing Ratio: Below 50%

3. Junmai Ginjō-shu – Polishing ratio: Below 60%

4. Ginjō-shu – Polishing ratio: Below 60%

5. Tokubetsu Junmai-shu – Polishing ratio: Below 60% or produced by special brewing method

6. Tokubetsu Honjōzō-shu – Polishing ratio: Below 60% or produced by special brewing method

7. Junmai-shu – Polishing ratio: Regulations do not stipulate a rice polishing ratio

8. Honjōzō-shu – Polishing ratio: Below 70%

We got to try 6 different labels from Saito and I prepared some sushi and smoked duck to go with the sake. And again, we had a blast of a time!

Saito Junmai 

Junmai means pure rice. Nothing is added in this beverage except rice, water, koji and yeast. This sake is made with at least 30% of rice milled away and the first hint of aroma I got was fruity and green apple! How nice! Medium bodied and dry with a bit of acidity after taste. Great with pork dishes and a really nice first glass of the afternoon!

Alcohol: 14.5%

RPR: 70%

Rice variety: Koshihikari

Acidity: 1.2

Saito Premium Junmai

Brewed by ‘Yamahai’ brewing method, which is a traditional slow fermentation technique process at low temperature with extra care and time. It gives this sake width and depth in flavor with semi dry taste. It’s medium bodied and it has a longer finish than the first one and goes really well with fried chicken.

Alcohol: 14.5%

RPR: 65%

Rice variety: Yamadanishiki

Acidity: 1.4

Saito Junmai Daiginjo

Pear! Oh! It smelled of juicy pear! And I love it! Similar to the Junmai, Junmai Daiginjo has no added distilled alcohol in its production. It is made of the king of the rice, Yamadanishiki, which is most suitable for brewing sake. This premium sake is smooth and richer in flavor compared to the first 2. Goes really well with sushi & sashimi with lots of wasabi!

Alcohol: 15.5%

RPR: 50%

Rice variety: Yamadanishiki

Acidity: 1.4

Saito Junmai Ginjo Genshu

This is an undiluted sake which is different from other sake that water is added. It has a high- alcohol content, 17.5% and pretty strong in its taste. It is full bodied and dry with rich flavor and long finish. This is also quite strong with peach flavor. And I love it! Goes very well with strong flavoured food like Tau Yu Bak (Braised Pork Belly). I highly recommend this bottle.

Alcohol: 17.5%

RPR: 60%

Rice variety: Iwaimai

Acidity: 1.5

Saito Ginjo Aged

This is a premium aged sake with 12 years storage and from what the principle said the aging gives this sake a special rich flavor and aroma such as aged whisky. It is golden in colour which derived from aging. Full bodied with long finish with special aroma like caramel and almond. My opinion, this tasted like shitake mushroom. And it was my least favourite of the sakes tasted today. It hasn’t grown in me yet or maybe I’m just too new in drinking this beverage and needed more time to explore. I’ll come back to aged sake one of these days. This definitely goes well with stronger flavoured food maybe like roasted lamb.

Alcohol: 16.5%

RPR: 60%

Rice variety: Yamadanishiki

Acidity: 1.2

Saito Super Premium Junmai Daiginjo

This is an exclusive premium sake deemed ‘the king of sake’. Comes with an elegant fruity aroma, predominantly peach and banana. Relish the fruitiness and moderate umami on the palate, finishing with a gentle and smooth bliss. This definitely was a crowd pleaser. I think I alone can finish the whole bottle!

Alcohol: 14.5%

RPR: 35%

Rice variety: Yamadanishiki

Acidity: 1.8

Hi I’m Sulo, General Manager for Wine Talk. I’m no expert in wine as I’m still learning and discovering. There’s so much to explore and I always believe in ‘The more you try, the better you get’.

So, don’t just stop at the few that you like. Be bold and try all sorts of wines and you’ll be surprised! The only way to know if you like the wine, is to try!


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