The Sunflower Sake FAQ
How do I pair sake with food?
Oh man! I'll need to get back to this in more detail. But the short answer: junmai, honjozo, even most ginjos: easily! They are extremely food friendly and flexible. Daiginjo and aromatically intense styles: serve as an aperitif, with fresh and bright cuisine esp seafood, or take your cues from aromatic white wines such as riesling or Malvasia!
How do I store sake?
Namazake: refrigerator, consume within 3-6 months of purchase (it will evolve/change, in some cases this is fine, in others it will deteriorate).
Aromatic Junmai Ginjo: a dark and cool place, consume within 6 months
Non-aromatic/earthy Junmai Ginjo: a dark and cool place, consume within 12 months
Junmai & Honjozo: a dark and cool place, consume within 12-18 months unless you are comfortable with the flavor evolution that time will provide.
How long does it last once open?
Store opened sake in the fridge with its original cap. In general, opened sake lasts much longer than wine. Fruity, floral sake will lose some of its aroma, but savory sake will stay delicious, sometimes even changing for the better.
Aromatic namazake: 1 week (still tastes good after this, but fruity notes will be diminished and structure can suffer)
Most other namazake: 3-4 weeks, although it can certainly go longer, the flavor will just change a bit. Don't pour it out by default, taste it!
Nuttier, more structured junmai ginjo/ginjo: ~1 month +
Aromatic, more delicate junmai ginjo/ginjo: 2-3 weeks +
Savory junmai: 1-2 months +
Savory kimoto and yamahai junmai: 2-3 months +
But always observe the rule of thumb: taste it before discarding! Sake can and will change and it can even recover after going off the rails. If you have room in your fridge, keep it there and don't toss until you've tasted 2-3 times and still don't care for how it has changed.
Can sake be aged?
95% of the time, sake won’t benefit from further aging at home. Unlike red wine sake contains no tannin, no sulfur, and its acidity levels are typically ⅕ that of wine, so it has very little protection against aging. As a result sake ages quickly: even after 3-6 months you may notice a change in its flavor. The good side of this is: if you want to age sake, you don't have to wait very long to see noticeable changes. The downside is: if you want to enjoy the sake as the brewer intended, you need to drink it quickly.
If you’re interested in learning about home sake aging, come by the Sunflower shop sometime and I can explain further. There are definitely styles that age well, and I have a small collection of purposefully aged sake (by breweries) as well as gently aged sake (by myself, in cellar conditions).
But until you reach a point of confidence and comfort with home aging, as a rule of thumb, I recommend that you enjoy your sake within a year of the label (bottling) date.
How do I serve it?
When in doubt, a white wine glass is a good choice. Ceramic yunomi- small Japanese tea cups-- are also a good choice if you don’t want to invest in any sake-specific wares. Yunomi may be best if you want to warm your sake as well. Pre-heat them by filling with boiling water first.
To learn more about sake serveware and glassware, read my article 🪄👩🏫
What about serving temperature?
This is a tough one because sake keeps proving my rules of thumb wrong. So I'm going to share them with you, but please take them with a grain of salt. There are so many exceptions, and the only way to know for sure is to try yourself!
Futsushu: depends on the style, but often good warm, sometimes improved when hot.
Honjozo: usually good warm
Junmai: usually good warm
Tokubetsu Junmai, Ginjo, and Junmai Ginjo: sometimes good warm. Look for:
- Savory notes such as grains/cereals, nuts, dairy (cream, yogurt, butter), or mushrooms, and/or
- Herbal tea notes such as fennel, honey, pear/apple, chamomile, etc.
Daiginjo and Junmai Daiginjo: very rarely good (or improved) warm. Even in kimoto daiginjo styles, it is often the case that the subtlety of texture and balance are somewhat lost/masked when heating, and the acid can become too prominent. However, that isn't a universal rule. Some exceptions include Hakkaisan Daiginjo, Tedorigawa Kinka, Tenko 50, and Sohomare Tuxedo, which I have enjoyed warm and which are all daiginjos. What all of these have in common is that they aren't very fruity or floral. Their aromas are a bit muted and their balance is such that when gently heated, they are still quite elegant. Still, I'd recommend staying under 110F when and if you decide to experiment.
How to heat sake?
Boil a small pot of water then pull it off the heat. Place a ceramic carafe or heat-resistant vessel (filled to 80% with sake) in the water so that the bottom ½ is submerged. Keep a thermometer in the sake and pull the carafe out once it has reached your preferred temperature. 110F, lukewarm, is my preferred temperature for making sake taste full, round, and balanced. 130F is the preferred temperature for making sake taste more dry, sharp, and for warming you up!
This is too much! Don't you have a TL;DR?