Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Posts Tagged ‘Sake’

The year of the snake means it’s sake time

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Mary writes:

This Sunday celebrate the New Year again!  Most Asian cultures celebrate the lunar New Year, which begins Sunday, Feb. 10 with the new moon, in style.

So we’re going to start out this New Year right and focus your attention on a different kind of wine that is technically a beer.

Why? Because it’s actually brewed and no fruit is involved, just rice and millet.

In China, traditional celebrations of the New Year vary. Window and doors are festooned in red symbols of fortune, wealth and happiness. It’s sort of like our holidays where people buy presents and on the eve of the New Year supper is a family feast with lots of savory foods paired with rice wine. The evening is capped with fireworks. Sound familiar?

The Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Tibetan and Vietnamese all make rice wine and the varying wines are made with different types of rice. There are more than 20,000 different rice varieties of rice in the world. Red, black, white and brown.

For our foray into rice wine, we’ll explore sake. Many different styles of sake are brewed in Japan. They also brew mirin, which is sweeter and used in cooking.

At a sake tasting a few years back, I learned that the better sakes were served cool, like a white wine. Most sake that is heated, is not the top of the line wine. And like wine, rice wine adds flavor to sauces and acidity to marinades.

Sake is clear in color except for Nigori. This style is opaque, almost the color of milk. The bottle is meant to be shaken before serving — an unsettling act to a vintage red wine aficionado.

When tasting sake, use a wine glass that allows you to swirl the rice wine to release the aromas, just like you would do with wine made from grapes. The more complex sake will have floral or tropical aromas.

Ginjo styles are fruity and floral and the easiest to like. The earthiness and rich, fuller bodied Junmai is appealing to the more savory palates. The taste is subtle with star anise, fennel and white pepper.

A tasting is a great way to share your sake experience and expand your palette. Dress up in a fancy red shirt and ring in the Lunar New Year in style.

Happy Lunar New Year!


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