Sommelier Talk: Episode 10 – Sakamai (Sake Rice)

Have you wondered why sake requires a certain type of rice, namely sake rice as opposed to rice which is used for consumption? Let’s take a close look at sake rice, or sakamai in Japanese. So, why do brewers use sake rice, a particularly expensive and difficult to strain of rice to grow? It’s because […]

Sommelier Talk: Episode 9 – Shochu

How to enjoy hot sake was the topic I covered in the last episode/article, but did you know that in some parts of Europe “hot wine” is being consumed during the cold Winter season? It’s called “Vin Chaud” in France, and “Gluhwein” in Germany. Wine is heated with spices like cinnamon and clove and with […]

Sommelier Talk: Episode 8 – How to Enjoy Hot Sake

Years end in 2010 in Los Angeles was par­ticularly odd as rain continued for days, along with record low temperatures. It was dur­ing those times that I’d crave warm foods and drinks. As the winter’s cold penetrated down to my bones, I too headed to an iza­kaya pub to seek comfort with a drink of […]

Sommelier Talk: Episode 7 – Pairing Wine with Japanese Foods

I attended the 14th Annual World of Flavors Conference at the renowned Culinary Institute of America, a program designed for the advancement of professional chefs in their trade and culinary art. This year featured “Japan: Flavors of Culture”, bringing culinary geniuses from Japan who presented their life work to America’s leading chefs. I’d like to […]

Sommelier Talk: Episode 6 – Comparing the Acidity in Sake & Wine

Continuing with my Sake and Wine comparison, let’s focus on 1.) types of acids, and 2.) alcohol levels. These components vary greatly, and understanding this will help to explain food pairing basics and to better select complimentary seasonings and sauces. Let’s first take a look at acids – the types of acids, and their concentration […]

Sommelier Talk: Episode 5 – Embracing New Flavors

Last time, I used my visit to Florida as an example to talk about the regional differences in terms of local cuisine and preference of alcoholic beverages. This time, I will talk about the food preferences associated with changes in living environment, using my stay in Europe as an example. Whilst in Europe, I ate many meat-based […]

Sommelier Talk: Episode 4 – Seasonal Jizake

I was recently in Miami. Other than being a bit more humid, my impression of Florida was that it was much like Southern California. And though I was aware of the unique food cultures there, the area’s preference for alcoholic beverages was beyond what I’d imagined. Miami is our nation’s third largest market for Japanese […]

Sommelier Talk: Episode 3 – Why Sake?

In Japan, the practice of using wild grapes to ferment into grape wine existed even before the creation of sake some 2000 years ago. What’s historically more significant is that, as soon as sake becomes available, people switch to rice based liquor, thus wiping out grape wine production. How was grape liquor replaced by rice […]

Sommelier Talk: Episode 2 – Differences in Fermenting Sake/Wine

Let’s take a look at sake from a brewing point of view. There are three major differences in sake brewing compared to wine. First, is the role of the koji mold. It’s the all-mighty koji that drives the conversion of rice starches into fermentable sugar. In wine brewing, fermentable sugars already present in the grape are converted directly into […]

Sommelier Talk: Episode 1 – Rice vs Grapes

Let’s take a new approach in uncovering the fascinating world of Japanese Sake – by comparing it to wine. Sake production took root in Japanese culture with the arrival of the wet-rice cultivation process brought from China into Japan some 3,500 years ago. Due to the warmth and high humidity that hovers over the country from spring to […]