Sake 101

Sake isn't just the hot liquid in a carafe you have had with sushi. It's a Japanese tradition that dates back over 2,000 years and is hand-crafted specifically to compliment food.


Sake Grades | Brewing Process | Serving Suggestions | Common Misconceptions | Decoding Our Back Labels

Sake Grades

Even though a lot of people refer to sake as "rice wine" it is actually brewed which would make it more similar to beer. Sake rice is milled down to remove the outer layers, leaving a starchy middle that is ideal for brewing.

How much the rice is milled down determines it's "grade" or how premium it is. The grade can also give some clues as to what type of flavors you may experience, so understanding grades is a great place to start.

Let us help translate:

Pourtal portfolio is made up of premium Japanese sake so you can start to experience the nuances of each grade.

Futsu: Means table sake. Futsu represents about 75% of the sake market and means that it did not follow any minimum milling requirement and often goes through an automated brewing process. Distilled alcohol is often added as well. This is what you may have tried at a local sushi joint, warmed up in a carafe.

Ginjo: This term in synonymous with premium sake. Ginjo is not a brand name, but a style/grade/class. Ginjo means a least 40% of the rice was polished away, leaving a smoother, cleaner taste. Only 5.8% of sake made is milled to this rate! 

Daiginjo: This is the ultrapremium level of sake - the rice has been painstakingly milled at 50%. Daiginjo sake will have nuanced flavors and aromatics.

Junmai: Junmai is the Japanese word meaning “pure rice" and is brewed using only rice, water, yeast, and koji — there are no other additives, such as sugar or alcohol.

  • Ginjo vs. Junmai Ginjo? Two sake with these grades could have the same milling rate, but the Ginjo bottle would have a small amount of distilled alcohol added to increase aromatics. (PS: Adding a small amount to premium sake is just a style and it doesn't make ginjo/daiginjo sake less than)

Brewing Process

Serving Suggestions

Pouring: Japanese culture places importance on respecting each other during all customs, including sake consumption.

  • Pour sake with both hands by holding the neck of the bottle or carafe.

  • Pour each other's cups when sharing.

Drinking Vessels: Serve sake in a wine glass for the ultimate sensory experience.

  • More traditional vessels include wooden box cups (masu), porcelain cups (ochoko), and carafes (tokkuri).

 Common Misconceptions

  • Myth #1 Sake should be drunk hot. There is a great range of enjoyable temperatures to drink sake, but serving it steaming hot masks its subtlety and exacerbates the alcohol.

  • Myth #2 Sake is low in acid relative to wine. Sake lacks the acids associated with wine (tartaric and malic), but it is higher in amino acids than wine is. This makes it a perfect pairing for food.

  • Myth #3 Sake is high in alcohol. Sake yeast is only capable of fermenting a beverage until it reaches 20% alcohol, and the sake is usually diluted afterward to bring down the level of alcohol to 14 to 18%.

  • Myth #4 Sake should be cheap. Large format bottles of table sake are inexpensive, but the same is not true for premium sake. The high quality raw materials and the careful precision that goes along with crafting the beverage is very expensive.

  • Myth #5 Sake causes hangovers. Excessive drinking of any alcohol will eventually cause a hangover. However, premium sake has no sulfites, additives, or preservatives, which is what many people to believe to cause hangovers.

  • Myth #6 Sake oxidizes in the same amount of time as wine does. Once opened, premium sake will remain fresh for at least one week. Some sake stay fresh for even longer! 

Decoding Our Back Labels

Each of our back labels clearly outline the important facts for learning about each sake. You'll find:

  • Brand Name

  • Products Name

  • Grade

  • Flavor profile

  • Origin/Prefecture

  • Rice Variety Used

  • Brewery or sake fact

  • Our bottle graph shows the percentage of each grade of sake produced in Japan for context.

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