Sake, the national drink of Japan, is a wine made from fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran. Despite the name Japanese rice wine, sake is produced using a brewing process more similiar to that of beer, where starch is converted into sugars which ferment into alcohol, whereas in wine, alcohol is produced by fermenting sugar that is naturally present in fruit, typically grapes.
The four main grades of sake are junmai, honjozo, ginjo and daiginjo, although there are actually eight special designates for sake, distinguished by varying degrees of polishing the rice, addition of alcohol and the absence of other additives.
- Junmai - no alcohol has been added to the sake.
- Honjozo - a small amount of alcohol has been added to enhance the flavor.
- Ginjo - at least 40 percent of the grain has been polished away.
- Daiginjo - at least 50 percent of the grain has been polished away.
There are also special types of sake, Nigorizake (cloudy sake) & sparkling sake.
- Nigorizake (cloudy sake) - unlike most sake, which is filtered towards the end of production to produce a clear drink, Nigorizake is only coarsely filtered, resulting in a cloudy sake that contains some of the rice solids left over from fermentation.
- Sparkling sake is bottled before the fermentation process has fully ended, resulting in the creation of bubbles.