A recent press release I received informs me that "one out of every five glasses of wine consumed in the world is sake." I find this highly interesting, mainly because sake isn't wine. It's technically a form of beer, brewed from grain, not fermented from fruit. (The word isn't even listed in The Oxford Companion to Wine.)
It's been said that sake has around 400 flavor components, as opposed to around 200 for wine. I like to think of myself as possessing fairly sophisticated taste buds, ones that can home in on a rogue tannin like a police radar drawing a bead on a speeding Porsche Boxster. But it seems to me you'd need a palate with the resolution of an electron microscope to detect 400 distinct flavors in even the most complex beverage.
These days Americans are finally becoming more sophisticated about sake. They know, for example, that good sake should not be served warm. (The heat was originally designed to obscure off flavors from mediocre sakes.)
Sake breweries in the U.S. have been putting out some interesting products lately. Here are three domestically brewed sakes that will help you get started on the road to total sake enlightenment. Serve these and other good sakes slightly chilled, at about the same temperature as rosé. Unless you're a purist, you don't have to invest in special serving sets: white wine glasses work perfectly well.
, a winner of the James Beard Who's Who in Food & Beverage Award, Blue is the wine and spirits editor for Bon Appétit magazine.
Sake production is a complex process that is nearly as involved