Our Wine Of The Week is Ozeki Karatamba Saké, a light, dry premium rice wine imported from Japan. Saké (prounced sah-keh) is generally segmented into four primary grades of quality with variations within several of the grades. There are also different types, depending on the method of production and materials used in the process. To learn more about saké, check out The Saké Handbook or The Japanese Saké Bible using the links below. Both are excellent sources of information. You can also visit Decanter’s “Saké: A Beginner’s Guide” online for a brief overview.
Ozeki Karatamba is a honjozo type saké best served slightly chilled. Like most premium styles of saké, it has a subtle fragrance and is clear and smooth. It has 14.5% alcohol and pairs well with many seafood recipes and other lighter dishes. Ozeki Karatamba can be found in restaurants served by the glass or in the 1.8 liter bottle, and in retail in 300ml bottles selling for $9 – $10 each (available at BevMo).
To summarize saké grades and types and see where Ozeki Karatamba fits in the universe of saké, let’s look at the chart below. Here we see the four major grades (Daiginjo, Ginjo, Honjozo, Futsushu) and two types (fortified and pure rice). Like fortified grape wine (e.g. Port), fortified saké has additional alcohol introduced during the production process. Pure rice saké contains only the alcohol produced during fermentation. When looking at a restaurant menu or store shelf and trying to decide which saké suits our taste, knowing the levels of quality is a helpful starting point. As with grape wine, saké is rated from sweet to dry and from light to full-bodied.
Rice milling percentage signifies how much of the grain of rice remains after the rice is milled or polished prior to brewing. Rice with the most hull, germ and rice bran removed is considered the purist and therefore produces the highest quality saké.
Finally, should saké be served chilled or warm? I mentioned that Ozeki Karatamba is best served chilled, which is the preferred temperature range for premium saké. Warming saké covers up imperfections (“faults” as a wine aficionado would say), therefore only non-premium saké is typically served warm.
Ozeki Corporation has been producing a wide range of saké and other drinks from its headquarters in Japan since 1711. In 1979, the company opened a facility in Holister, California, Ozeki Sake (U.S.A.) Inc., that produces saké using locally-grown rice. Karatamba is made only in Japan.
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