A few years ago, I attended a sake tasting in Manchester in the UK at hangingditch, the wine shop where I was then working. It was a fantastic tasting, featuring many different styles of sake. In its range of styles, diversity of food pairings, and salty, sometimes nutty aromas, I discovered a definite similarity to sherry – which just happens to be one of my favourite drinks.
Sake is a Japanese drink made from rice and at that tasting I learnt about how rice affects the style of sake. Milling, or polishing, the rice is central to the style of sake: the more polished the grain, the more delicate the drink. Furthermore, the type of rice used can change the color as can ageing the sake in oak and sake can have different levels of sweetness.
Sake is also a great drink to pair with food – seabream, octopus, eel, and pork were just some of the foods we tried with the different sakes at the tasting. Pairing the right drink with the right food enhances any meal and the diversity of sake makes it an ideal accompaniment to the small, varied dishes served in Japanese restaurants.
Since then however, I haven’t had the chance to further my knowledge of sake. But sake has continued to intrigue me and now I’m taking the day-long WSET Level 1 Sake course with Grape Experience in San Francisco. I’m looking forward to refreshing my limited knowledge of sake and relearning definitions such as honjozo, daiginjo, and junmai. As with wine, knowing what the terms on a label mean allows you to understand the style of sake. Visiting a Japanese restaurant will be a much more rewarding experience as I will be able to choose the ideal sake to pair with the food I’m eating.
The course is on Sunday, 1 October at Roka Akor, 801 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, from 9:00AM-5:00PM with a short multiple choice exam later in the month. You can enroll at https://www.grapeexperience.com/sake-class/
Matthew Gaughan is a WSET Certified Educator who teaches for Grape Experience and completed the WSET Diploma with Grape Experience.