Sake is one of the world’s most interesting alcoholic beverages. Although most compare its taste with wine, it is brewed more similarly to beer. Its taste is unique and its history and culture run deep.
Recent developments in sake should be of interest to both sake novices and veterans alike. Japan’s national drink is in a state of flux. Alarmingly, overall sake sales have been declining for years and it now accounts for less than 10% of total alcoholic beverage market share in Japan. Sake breweries, meanwhile, are declining in numbers, too. The good news is that premium grades of sake are showing surprising growth. There seems to be a kind of sake renaissance underway, beneath all the bad numbers in the larger market. Breweries that specialize in these grades of sake are seeing great demand, with exports in particular rising each year. Most tellingly, a younger generation of Japanese is discovering that sake is ‘cool’ and are enthusiastically turning to it. Much to the surprise of industry experts, there seems to be a spike of interest among young women.
The future of tasty premium sake looks bright. Lower grades of sake (futsu-shu) will probably continue to decline. Thankfully, there are a handful of great places to enjoy premium sake in Yokohama, as we mentioned in our greeting. But do you know how to choose?
Internationally respected sake guru John Gauntner, a resident of Kamakura for decades, has some good, simple advice for enjoying sake. Premium grades (as noted by the term ‘ginjo’) rarely disappoint. Also, nine times out of ten, sake is fairly priced. If it’s pricier, it’s usually better. Finally, drink it chilled. Yes, there is some good warm sake, but chilled is best until you learn more. That should be all you need to begin your sake journey. Have fun experimenting!