Episode-9: Sake 101: Unraveling the Basics

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We’ve got a new twist on an old formula this week.   In the interest of fairness, after having done a Shochu 101 episode, we thought it only made sense to give Sake the same treatment.   However, unlike Shochu, the “basics” of sake have been well-treaded in many forms across books, videos, blogs, lectures and other media. It didn’t make sense for us to just rehash the same material that’s already readily available just about everywhere. While we want to provide our listeners with a solid foundation of the core principles surrounding Sake and Shochu, digging deeper in order to provide context and stimulate dialogue is why this show exists. So, we thought we’d mix it up a little.   John has been on the road a great deal as of late (as of always?) and we wanted to get him on air. When we talked about doing a Sake 101, it was something that he really wanted to be a part of. When he offered to provide a monologue outlining the fundamentals, we naturally said, Yoroshiku! This is a master in his wheelhouse – what more could we ask for?   With that, this week you get the core basics outlined by the best in the business. You want to scout out a tasty bottle of sake that you’ll be happy with today? We’ve got you covered.   But we wanted to do something for our listeners who already feel comfortable with the “basics”, providing a bit more food-for-thought. So, what we’ve done this week is break John’s brilliant monologue into segments, with the Sake On Air team jumping in at regular intervals to flesh out the details, ask deeper questions, and provide further context for why the various points that John has laid out are significant.   In addition to John Gauntner’s pre-recorded presence, three core members of the SOA crew, Chris Hughes, Sebastien Lemoine, and Justin Potts, are very lucky to be joined this week by Sarasa Suzuki, who is a WSET Sake Educator, as well as wine and spirits specialist here in Japan, also serving as the Japan brand manager for CAMUS Cognac. She was kind enough to put up with our shenanigans this week as she brings her experience and insight to the important topics that we delve into for this week’s show. Lucky us, and lucky you! (She’ll be making an appearance in a future episode to be released soon, as well!)   Our listeners may have a few thoughts and opinions about the content of this week’s episode. Great! Send those to us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp   You can stay up-to-date on what’s happening with the show by following along on InstagramTwitter (@sakeonair) and Facebook, as well.   If you can find a moment in your busy schedule,  a quick review on your favorite listening service would really mean a lot.   Thanks to Frank Walter for the time he put into making this one shine. It wasn’t an easy task.   Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association and is a joint production between Potts.K Productions and Export Japan.   Until our next outing, Kampai!   Show Notes: 6:07 What is Sake? 9:02 Sake and the Family of Brewed Beverages 10:30 Brewing Beer vs. Brewing Sake; Clarifying “Koji” 10:46 The History of Sake 22:02 What’s the fuss about Ginjo? 22:50 Good Sake and Better Sake 31:57 Relationship Between Price and Quality: Sake Rice 38:33 Relationship Between Price and Quality: Rice Milling & Special Designation Sake 45:13 The Blood, Sweat and Tears of Sake Brewing and the Tenuous Hierarchy System 48:02 Sake Service Temperature 51:52 Storing Sake and Aging Sake 56:18 Drinking Vessels 61:50 Sake and Food 65:25 John Gauntner’s “Basics for Enjoying Sake Today” (uncut from start to finish)