Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

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Mark B
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Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#1 Post by Mark B » May 12th, 2019, 10:10 am

We celebrated a friend's birthday last night. Someone brought a very bright/crisp/clean/melon-flavored sake. Melon notes were perceived by me, not added to the sake. This style, for me, almost shares a similar flavor profile of certain dry, white wines. Out of my mind, or an apt comparison? Also, mods, feel free to move this to another thread if it's not wine-centric enough for Wine Talk. TIA.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#2 Post by Mark B » May 12th, 2019, 10:16 am

To save someone the explanation time, I'm well-aware sake is "rice wine" just as there are "wines" made from various other fruits besides grapes.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#3 Post by AAgrawal » May 12th, 2019, 10:27 am

I'm not an expert, but I've had sake in a wide range from essentially wine-like (dry, lower alcohol, crisp white) to almost spirit-like (intense, slight alcohol burn, sippable but not gulpable). It can even be made sparkling!
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#4 Post by Charlie Carnes » May 12th, 2019, 11:02 am

Sake is amazing. I do believe one can taste many perceptions across myriad styles, as one does in wine.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#5 Post by Thor Iverson » May 12th, 2019, 11:02 am

Craft cider, I think. Sake, while brilliant and endlessly varied, is entirely reliant on process in a way wine isn't and has traditions that don't really track with (grape) wine traditions. Cider embraces varietal differentiation, dry is where all the action's happening, and there are pet-nats and natural ferments and all the same stuff that's happening with wine.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#6 Post by Charlie Carnes » May 12th, 2019, 11:03 am

Sake social has a great selection; they delivered to me in Florida.

Ozeki Jyudan Jikomi is probably my favorite right now!
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#7 Post by GregT » May 12th, 2019, 11:12 am

But it has nothing whatsoever to do with wine. Calling it "rice wine" is false advertising.

Sake is basically beer. It's made from fermenting grain. There are all kinds of home brewers who are experimenting with sake as well. It's basically brewing an all grain beer. You take the rice, cook it, add water and yeast and some rice mold and you get sake. You can't squeeze the grains to get juice out of them.

Wine is made from fermented fruit juice. No water is added because the fruit has sufficient juice. And yeah, I know that people water back but that's utterly irrelevant because it's not required at all, whereas with sake, water is absolutely required. Wine can be made from grapes, but is also made from other fruits and some of those aren't really too bad - blueberry, blackberry, and tart cherries for example, can make tolerable wines if you get past the fact that they aren't grapes.

That does not mean that sake can't be enjoyable and even complex, but people go crazy over craft beers too and that doesn't make those anything like wine.

I think Thor is closest - craft cider is closer to wine. It's made from fruit juices, not grains and water.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#8 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum » May 12th, 2019, 11:18 am

No. Sake isn't much like wine at all, except some similarities in the way it's packaged, served and talked about.

FWIW melon is a very common thing to smell in sake of a certain type.

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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#9 Post by Michael Martin » May 12th, 2019, 11:35 am

I think the closest “thing” to wine without grapes is Apothic Red.

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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#10 Post by Anton D » May 12th, 2019, 12:11 pm

Michael Martin wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 11:35 am
I think the closest “thing” to wine without grapes is Apothic Red.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#11 Post by Anton D » May 12th, 2019, 12:15 pm

I think there are many wine-like aspects to sake.

Both are products of natural fermentation, and both are prepared to similar levels of alcohol content. The flavor profiles in sake’s can sometimes seem wine like.

Fine by me however you wanna think of it.

Sake is not overtly considered a candidate for aging or gaining positive attributes over time, etc. but is a fun comparison.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#12 Post by Kris Patten » May 12th, 2019, 1:32 pm

Greg,

I think it's only called "rice wine" in the US to demystify it, and only for consumers, I haven't heard that in 10-15 years as education has increased from suppliers and selection has gone from 18L bag in box served hot to serious versions available in US.

Watari Bune is life changing stuff if you're into Sake.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#13 Post by Mark B » May 12th, 2019, 3:47 pm

Sarah Kirschbaum wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 11:18 am
No. Sake isn't much like wine at all, except some similarities in the way it's packaged, served and talked about.

FWIW melon is a very common thing to smell in sake of a certain type.
For being unalike, the back labels read eerily similar.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#14 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum » May 12th, 2019, 5:21 pm

Mark B wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 3:47 pm
Sarah Kirschbaum wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 11:18 am
No. Sake isn't much like wine at all, except some similarities in the way it's packaged, served and talked about.

FWIW melon is a very common thing to smell in sake of a certain type.
For being unalike, the back labels read eerily similar.
Irrelevant. How the label reads has only to do with the fact that federal US import laws for alcohol are both strict and narrow minded. They have no category for sake, so they classify it as wine. All labels thus have to follow those paradigms. I would not count on the TTB rules for alcohol to be your supporting argument.

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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#15 Post by Markus S » May 12th, 2019, 5:25 pm

Mark B wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 3:47 pm
Sarah Kirschbaum wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 11:18 am
No. Sake isn't much like wine at all, except some similarities in the way it's packaged, served and talked about.

FWIW melon is a very common thing to smell in sake of a certain type.
For being unalike, the back labels read eerily similar.
You can stick anything you want on a label for marketing purposes, but that doesn't change what it is. Beyond Meat packages their "burgers" into packages that look like they are ground meat, but they are not meat.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#16 Post by GregT » May 12th, 2019, 6:26 pm

Kris Patten wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 1:32 pm
Greg,

I think it's only called "rice wine" in the US to demystify it, and only for consumers, I haven't heard that in 10-15 years as education has increased from suppliers and selection has gone from 18L bag in box served hot to serious versions available in US.

Watari Bune is life changing stuff if you're into Sake.
You're right - I haven't heard the phrase recently now that I think about it. champagne.gif
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#17 Post by Mark B » May 12th, 2019, 6:44 pm

If we’re strictly talking about “taste”, which is closer to grape wine: sake or cider? Curious for both sake and cider Recommendations.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#18 Post by Mark B » May 12th, 2019, 6:56 pm

Anton D wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 12:11 pm
Michael Martin wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 11:35 am
I think the closest “thing” to wine without grapes is Apothic Red.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#19 Post by Kelly Walker » May 12th, 2019, 7:02 pm

Not a cider fan but a close friend is a saki expert. He has sucked me into the black whole. Very complex subject even if, like wine, it is a straight forward production process. Source of the rice is as important as vineyards. So many styles, but again like wine only a small tier are interesting to me and they can get expensive.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#20 Post by Chris Blum » May 12th, 2019, 7:19 pm

To me saki is much more like a spirit. It’s “hot” to my palate; more so than the AbV should seem.

I’d say some dry ciders are pretty vinous. And some barrel aged beers can be port-like.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#21 Post by lleichtman » May 12th, 2019, 8:13 pm

Mark B wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 3:47 pm
Sarah Kirschbaum wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 11:18 am
No. Sake isn't much like wine at all, except some similarities in the way it's packaged, served and talked about.

FWIW melon is a very common thing to smell in sake of a certain type.
For being unalike, the back labels read eerily similar.
These labels you are reading apply to US alcohol regulations. The Japanese do not have the same regulation so what they put on the bottle is usually a description of the region, the sake maker and the style of sake. Sake from Japan has no such labels on them. We bring back about a half a dozen bottles every year when we go to Japan. The styles are so varied but it is not wine at all.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#22 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m » May 12th, 2019, 8:23 pm

IMO, dry apple cider is the hands-down answer here.

Many are single-variety, just like with wine. And many of them have wonderful complexity and even a touch of funk that is strongly evocative of red wine.

If you do a search in the Beer and Spirits sub-forum, and choose to search only thread titles, I think you'll find a thread on Cider; I think I started such a thread many years ago when I was living in England and had access to a ridiculous array of quality offerings. Assuming that thread exists, there will be some solid recommendations for you in there.

ETA: .... okay, so it took all of 15 seconds for my curiosity to get the best of me. The thread does, in fact, exist, and a quick perusal proves it to have lots of good information for you: viewtopic.php?f=18&t=63518&p=846589&hilit=cider#p846589
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#23 Post by Mark B » May 12th, 2019, 8:40 pm

Brian G r a f s t r o m wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 8:23 pm
IMO, dry apple cider is the hands-down answer here.

Many are single-variety, just like with wine. And many of them have wonderful complexity and even a touch of funk that is strongly evocative of red wine.

If you do a search in the Beer and Spirits sub-forum, and choose to search only thread titles, I think you'll find a thread on Cider; I think I started such a thread many years ago when I was living in England and had access to a ridiculous array of quality offerings. Assuming that thread exists, there will be some solid recommendations for you in there.

ETA: .... okay, so it took all of 15 seconds for my curiosity to get the best of me. The thread does, in fact, exist, and a quick perusal proves it to have lots of good information for you: viewtopic.php?f=18&t=63518&p=846589&hilit=cider#p846589
Thanks, Brian! I appreciate all the info you gave me.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#24 Post by Rauno E (NZ) » May 12th, 2019, 9:10 pm

Sake does share some similarities - there are different procedures and processes the maker can apply, where the rice and water are from is important, and there are some very serious artisans out there. And many of those differences flow through into the flavours. Plus, of course, it taps into that human desire to obsess over minutiae.

But instead, I would nominate: Tea!
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#25 Post by Mark B » May 12th, 2019, 10:07 pm

Rauno E (NZ) wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 9:10 pm
Sake does share some similarities - there are different procedures and processes the maker can apply, where the rice and water are from is important, and there are some very serious artisans out there. And many of those differences flow through into the flavours. Plus, of course, it taps into that human desire to obsess over minutiae.

But instead, I would nominate: Tea!
I saw some insane figures for the world's most-expensive teas. I wonder if the most-expensive sake plays in the same league.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#26 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m » May 13th, 2019, 12:25 am

If we're going to go the non-alcoholic route, then I'd nominate coffee.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#27 Post by Otto Forsberg » May 13th, 2019, 1:30 am

Although I'm more of a coffee person than a tea drinker, I still say that tea beats coffee hands down, when it comes to terroir differences, styles across different regions and countries and complexity.

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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#28 Post by Markus S » May 13th, 2019, 4:47 am

Otto Forsberg wrote:
May 13th, 2019, 1:30 am
... I still say that tea beats coffee hands down, when it comes to terroir differences, styles across different regions and countries and complexity.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#29 Post by Thor Iverson » May 13th, 2019, 10:21 am

If you're looking for vinous characteristics in cider, a great place to start is Sundström's Sponti. If someone served it to me completely blind and claimed it was a German riesling I'm not sure I'd contradict them...and in fact the producer worked, among other places, at Leitz. Their whole lineup is terrific.

I'm also quite a fan of Shacksbury, though for more critical drinking you want to go for the stuff that comes in bottles rather than cans; the latter is how they release their more commercial products.

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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#30 Post by Nate Simon » May 13th, 2019, 11:22 am

A good barrel-aged sour beer is a great sub for wine, and a good way to bridge a beer-skeptical wine lover.

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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#31 Post by Jay Miller » May 13th, 2019, 11:32 am

Chris Blum wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 7:19 pm
To me saki is much more like a spirit.
No wonder, he's been dead for 103 years now.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saki
Michael Martin wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 11:35 am
I think the closest “thing” to wine without grapes is Apothic Red.
You win the thread.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#32 Post by Jay Miller » May 13th, 2019, 11:34 am

Otto Forsberg wrote:
May 13th, 2019, 1:30 am
Although I'm more of a coffee person than a tea drinker, I still say that tea beats coffee hands down, when it comes to terroir differences, styles across different regions and countries and complexity.
That was certainly true in the past but there's some fascinating stuff being done in the coffee arena these days. For example, if you have a chance to check out what Cafe la Granja Esperanza is doing with the gesha variety it's well worth it.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#33 Post by J a y H a c k » May 13th, 2019, 12:43 pm

GregT wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 11:12 am
. . . You take the rice, cook it, add water and yeast and some rice mold and you get sake. You can't squeeze the grains to get juice out of them. . . .
No. I took a few minutes off from work for relaxation and picked this thread, so I can't go through a whole megillah (love to mix metaphors) but about 10 years ago Zach's brought in some of the best Saki makers from Japan to pour their stuff and I spent one parking meter plus one parking ticket talking to them about their craft. I agree it's not wine, but it is far more complicated than you describe. How much you roll the rice and polish it to get rid of the bran changes the flavor dramatically, which is far different from cook it and ferment it. There is also a terroir component to it. AND I agree that it can have fruit-like flavors and aromas at the high end.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#34 Post by c fu » May 13th, 2019, 1:16 pm

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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#35 Post by Rory K. » May 13th, 2019, 3:36 pm

I mean while Sake IS a beer, I'd say it outranks Cider as the closest thing to wine, not because of specific flavors, but because of how people drink it, talk about, savor it etc. There are a huge range of aromatic compounds in Sake to geek out on, it's a more intimidating world to me than wine.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#36 Post by Chris Blum » May 13th, 2019, 3:39 pm

Jay Miller wrote:
May 13th, 2019, 11:32 am
Chris Blum wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 7:19 pm
To me saki is much more like a spirit.
No wonder, he's been dead for 103 years now.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saki
Michael Martin wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 11:35 am
I think the closest “thing” to wine without grapes is Apothic Red.
You win the thread.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#37 Post by Mel Knox » May 13th, 2019, 6:34 pm

There was a winery in Bellevue Washington that made rhubarb wine. It tasted like an off dry rose. Supposedly somebody gave it to a famous french winemaker and he said it was well-made, but he could not recognize the variety. They got frozen rhubarb from a company near Tacoma on an as needed basis.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#38 Post by Otto Forsberg » May 14th, 2019, 2:45 am

Rory K. wrote:
May 13th, 2019, 3:36 pm
I mean while Sake IS a beer, I'd say it outranks Cider as the closest thing to wine, not because of specific flavors, but because of how people drink it, talk about, savor it etc. There are a huge range of aromatic compounds in Sake to geek out on, it's a more intimidating world to me than wine.
What do you mean Sake is a beer? It's a brewery product, but it definitely isn't a beer. That's like saying wine is cider.

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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#39 Post by Rory K. » May 14th, 2019, 8:14 am

Otto Forsberg wrote:
May 14th, 2019, 2:45 am
Rory K. wrote:
May 13th, 2019, 3:36 pm
I mean while Sake IS a beer, I'd say it outranks Cider as the closest thing to wine, not because of specific flavors, but because of how people drink it, talk about, savor it etc. There are a huge range of aromatic compounds in Sake to geek out on, it's a more intimidating world to me than wine.
What do you mean Sake is a beer? It's a brewery product, but it definitely isn't a beer. That's like saying wine is cider.
Only academically, since the definition of a beer is a fermented grain beverage
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#40 Post by Otto Forsberg » May 14th, 2019, 10:20 am

Rory K. wrote:
May 14th, 2019, 8:14 am
Otto Forsberg wrote:
May 14th, 2019, 2:45 am
Rory K. wrote:
May 13th, 2019, 3:36 pm
I mean while Sake IS a beer, I'd say it outranks Cider as the closest thing to wine, not because of specific flavors, but because of how people drink it, talk about, savor it etc. There are a huge range of aromatic compounds in Sake to geek out on, it's a more intimidating world to me than wine.
What do you mean Sake is a beer? It's a brewery product, but it definitely isn't a beer. That's like saying wine is cider.
Only academically, since the definition of a beer is a fermented grain beverage
What? :D

Beer definitely is a fermented grain beverage, but not any fermented grain beverage is beer. Definitions are not a two-way street.

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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#41 Post by EHeffner » May 14th, 2019, 10:38 am

Barrel aged sour beers - especially with some age on it
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#42 Post by c fu » May 14th, 2019, 10:52 am

EHeffner wrote:
May 14th, 2019, 10:38 am
Barrel aged sour beers - especially with some age on it
yet. Lambic especially ages beautifully.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#43 Post by Rich Salsano » May 14th, 2019, 11:09 am

c fu wrote:
May 14th, 2019, 10:52 am
EHeffner wrote:
May 14th, 2019, 10:38 am
Barrel aged sour beers - especially with some age on it
yet. Lambic especially ages beautifully.
This. Definitely the closest for me.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#44 Post by Bruce G. » May 14th, 2019, 7:12 pm

Interesting discussion.

Apropos of something....
The resemblance of sake to wine is in large part intentional.
In Japan, sake consumption has been dropping steadily for several decades. The current trend to very fruity sakes is in many ways an attempt to attract new Japanese consumers and foreign consumers who prefer wine.

Re: Is it beer or wine?
I just put the question to 7 Japanese winemakers as we were sitting around drinking wine.
They all said "It's neither beer nor wine... it's sake". After I insisted that they choose one or the other they all said "wine". This surprised me, and I pointed out that the production is far more akin to brewing than winemaking. They all agreed that this was so, but said that the way sake is consumed is far more akin to wine consumption than drinking beer.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#45 Post by Josh Grossman » May 14th, 2019, 7:26 pm

Bruce G. wrote:
May 14th, 2019, 7:12 pm
Interesting discussion.

Apropos of something....
The resemblance of sake to wine is in large part intentional.
In Japan, sake consumption has been dropping steadily for several decades. The current trend to very fruity sakes is in many ways an attempt to attract new Japanese consumers and foreign consumers who prefer wine.

Re: Is it beer or wine?
I just put the question to 7 Japanese winemakers as we were sitting around drinking wine.
They all said "It's neither beer nor wine... it's sake". After I insisted that they choose one or the other they all said "wine". This surprised me, and I pointed out that the production is far more akin to brewing than winemaking. They all agreed that this was so, but said that the way sake is consumed is far more akin to wine consumption than drinking beer.
I think soju/shōchū has passed sake in popularity in Japan.

The closest I've had to wine was probably from cassis/blackcurrants. This was pretty good: http://www.cassismonna.com/en/products

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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#46 Post by Mel Knox » May 14th, 2019, 10:48 pm

As I recall the German beer laws exclude rice.

My question for the questioner is, In what sense?? Taste?? Aesthetic appreciation of a beverage?? If it's the former, then the answer is certain fruit wines, such as the rhubarb wine. The latter?? Tea...with coffee coming up on the outside.
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#47 Post by paul hanna » May 15th, 2019, 3:55 am

Had a great Sake tasting flight in Tokyo years ago at a very molecular restaurant where almost nothing else would have paired with the food (it was really diverse and totally out there, but very good) - was an absolute revelation!

Maybe 7 or 8 Sake's, all different styles from a slightly sweet, light chilled sparkling Sake right through to complex, bigger styles at different temperatures - was a lot of fun.

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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#48 Post by David Glasser » May 15th, 2019, 4:41 am

Sake:
Made like beer.
Drunk like wine.

Most like wine without grapes in it? Fruit wines. Sake's not far behind from a drinking perspective.

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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#49 Post by Jason T » May 15th, 2019, 4:54 am

Why does it have to be “like” something else? Why cannot it not just be sake?
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Re: Is Sake the closest thing to wine that doesn't have grapes in it?

#50 Post by Barry L i p t o n » May 15th, 2019, 8:07 am

BlackBerry wine is closer than cider

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