So, you selected and purchased a bottle of saké (we couldn’t be happier for you!) and you get that bottle of liquid happy home. Now what?
Store It For Later
Unlike wine, saké does not improve with age and does not require cellaring. If you do need to store your saké, do so in a cool, dark place or simply in the refrigerator. The cooler the temperature that saké is stored, the slower it ages and the longer flavors remain pure and clean. If you store in a warm well-lit place, your saké runs the risk of premature aging. At about a year, saké begins to show more rapid flavor changes and may start developing off-flavors. It’s not necessarily going bad, just changing from how it was intended to be consumed. We recommend most saké be consumed within one year.
Traditional saké service is a time-honored tradition of "I pour yours and you pour mine." The goal is that your friend's glass is never empty and in return, yours shall never be empty either. Some saké enthusiasts insist that this is a vital part of enjoying saké, and while we agree it is a wonderful tradition, it’s going to be delicious no matter who fills your glass. You don’t have to let "ceremonies" like these complicate your experience. Pick a bottle, chill it, crack it open and serve.
When it comes to drink ware? ware, saké newbies and geeks can be divided. Old school thinking would have us all sipping saké out of small traditional ceramic cups called Ochokos, which is great for an old-world vibe and romantic evening. We suggest using a standard white wine glass with or without a stem for saké. Wine glasses allow you to not only see your saké in all its glory but also help better channel the aromas. There are saké specific stemware/wine glasses that you can buy, but a simple wine glass is perfectly fine. Whichever you choose, we promise the saké will be wonderful.
Americans, with a brief saké history, are generally accustomed to saké served hot. Temperature makes a huge difference in the flavor and nose of saké. Premium saké today, like our Momokawa family, is best served chilled like a Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc. Chill your saké down to about 44-47° F as a general rule. If you wish to heat your saké, be careful not to do so past about 115° F or you'll start cooking it which ruins the overall experience. While there are some styles that are wonderful served warm, many premium sake available in the U.S. market today are best served chilled, or at room temperature, especially as you go up to the ginjo-daiginjo levels. As you experiment with various saké, start them out lightly chilled, and let them warm in the glass as you taste. The flavor will change and the ideal temperature for presentation will be clear. You can be the judge of what temperature pleases your palate the most.
It’s good to approach tasting saké as you would wine because each saké will have its own unique aromas, flavors and body. Take a sniff and explore the complex aromas. From fresh fruit, herb and spice notes to earthy, mushroom, umami tones – there are so many characteristics on the nose of saké to pick out and most are connected to style. Taste often reflects the aroma, so what you smelled is likely to be similar to what you taste. Some components will be more dominant as you sip so take note of what you do and do not like. This will help you cultivate your favorite categories and styles of saké for the future.
Can't Finish That Bottle?
There is no rush here. Enjoy at your pace and, of course, responsibly. Saké does not oxidize like wine so a open bottle will store wonderfully (with the cap on) for a month or two, when refrigerated. Some varieties with a higher sugar content (like our Moonstone Coconut Lemongrass) will remain drinkable even longer. In the end, light and temperature contribute to the lifespan of saké. Keep it in a dark, cool place, and you’ll enjoy it longer.
We hope these secrets to storing, serving and tasting saké will make your next drinking experience all the more enjoyable. Share your saké moments and favorite temperature findings using the hashtag #KanpaiLife.
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Stay tuned right here every Saké-Sunday for more tips, tricks and lessons to keep you fresh on saké. Next Sunday: Categories