sake bottles next to a flower

WSET Level 3 Sake: Enhancing Your Expertise in Sake Production and Appreciation

Have you ever thought about getting professionally certified as a beverage connoisseur?

The Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) is a globally recognized, certified institution that offers courses for enthusiasts and industry professionals alike.

Professional certification demands knowledge, ability, and an experienced palate – yet that doesn’t mean it’s out of reach.

Read on to learn how a WSET Level 3 sake can enhance your sake education.

The Cultural Significance of Sake

Like many types of alcohol, sake has a rich history that dates back centuries.

One often overlooked fact about sake is that some of its earliest variants were made by people chewing rice and spitting it into vats to mix with yeast and ferment. More conventional (and hygienic) methods are known to have emerged around the 8th century BCE.

The drink has played a significant role in shaping Japanese society, both as a drink consumed during social gatherings and as an offering in various religious ceremonies.

Made of fermented rice and koji, the methods involved in the production of sake are steeped in cultural tradition. Sake is referred to as “Nihonshu” in Japan, and breweries, known as “Kura” have been passed down through the generations. Many of the techniques still used today owe their roots to ancient history.

Beyond its role as a drink, sake has influenced various aspects of Japanese literature and art. Many famous works feature references to sake or scenes set in sake breweries.

Today, sake continues to be enjoyed as a pairing for traditional Japanese dishes and as an ingredient.

Understanding Variety

Sake boasts an impressive variety and styles, aromas, and flavors. The factors that influence its characteristics include rice variety, the degree of rice polishing, and the fermentation process.

Some modern brands introduce other alcohols, mixers, and ingredients to expand and experiment with fresh takes on the traditional drink. The most popular types of sake include:

  • Junmai-shu
  • Honjozo-shu
  • Ginjo-shu
  • Daiginjo-shu
  • Nama-zake

Understanding the differences between various types of sake is an essential step if you want to become a sake expert – and the WSET Level 3 sake course (below) covers topics like this in great detail.

For our readers hungry (or thirsty!) for some quick facts about sake, though, we’ll briefly explain the differences between the popular types of sake. Thorough, professional-grade knowledge is taught at the WSET institution, which offers courses like the WSET Level 3 sake.

What is WSET Level 3 Sake?

We’ll explain that below.

Types of Sake

Junmai-shu translates to “pure” or “unmixed rice sake”. It’s made without the addition of distilled alcohol and has a rich, full-bodied flavor that’s slightly more acidic than other kinds of sake.

Honjozo sake is lighter and smoother, with small quantities of distilled alcohol added to it to enhance the flavor. It’s also one of the most common varieties around. Ginjo-shu and daiginjo sake require highly polished rice and come with a higher price tag.

Rice polishing is common in sake production.

Why is it polished?

The polishing process shrinks the rice, removing outer layers of protein and fat that affect the taste of the sake. The innermost layers contain higher amounts of starch that’s essential in manufacturing the drink.

However, the more the rice is polished, the less mass is left. This means that highly polished rice has a higher quality but requires a larger amount of rice for production – hence the increase in price.

Finally, nama-zake is unpasteurized and retains a fresh and lively character.

What Makes Being a Sake Scholar Great

Becoming a sake scholar offers both personal and professional benefits. Concretely, an experienced sake scholar can expect to:

  • Possess superior knowledge and appreciation
  • Improve their tasting skills
  • Enhance their career prospects

As you delve deeper into the world of sake, you will develop a profound understanding of the cultural significance and skilled craftsmanship involved in the drink’s production.

That brings with it the opportunity to refine your palate and become adept at identifying different sake styles and flavors. At the same time, a formal sake qualification will make you an asset to employers in the food and beverage industries, leading to new and exciting job opportunities.

Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Courses: An Overview of Sake Education

Your sake education begins with the desire to learn. The Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) offers a variety of in-depth modules that begin with the fundamentals.

For sake, two modules are available: the WSET Level 1 and WSET Level 3 award in sake.

WSET Level 1 Sake: Establishing a Foothold

A WSET Level 1 award in sake covers all of the basic principles of the drink.

Students learn about the major types of sake and the factors that differentiate each. Students learn how and when to serve sake and gain a fundamental understanding of how to professionally evaluate taste and texture.

At the end of the course, students who pass an exam receive certification.

WSET Level 3 Sake: Enhancing Your Expertise

So, what is a WSET Level 3 sake award?

It teaches students to appreciate the finest details of the drink. They gain an understanding of the drink’s commercial importance and deep knowledge of its background.

A WSET Level 3 award in sake is perfect for serious sake enthusiasts and professionals seeking to expand their understanding of sake’s production, history, and significance.

WSET Level 3 sake is a three-day course that consists of lectures, discussions, and sake tastings using WSET’s unique approach to evaluation. Students must commit to multiple hours of further reading and study assignments between class hours.

Become a Sake Scholar

By undertaking the WSET Level 3 Sake course, you will expand your knowledge of this fascinating beverage. Take the next step in your sake education and gain valuable skills that can enhance your personal and professional life.

The Wine and Spirit Education Trust offers insight into far more than just sake. Courses range from 101 classes aimed at absolute beginners to masterclasses that leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of knowledge. Click here to browse all available courses.