Apr 23, 2010

Which to Use a Wine Glass or Ochoko for Drinking Sake

The Japan Times placed a feature article about London-based chef and TV presenter Silvena Rowe on Sunday. (U.K. chef hails sake as 'sexy')

She visited Japan in March and stayed there for two weeks. During her stay, she appeared in a program for Fuji TV. According to The Japan Times' article, the newspaper had an interview with her a few hours before the filming for the program.

She won s Sake Contributor Award in September 2009 at the International Wine Challenge in London. I don't know exactly what type of award this is, but she seems to have been recognized for her contribution to the field of matching sake with Western cuisine.

She insists that, to make the allure of sake understood by Westerners, brewers in Japan need to change the way they serve it. "If I had sake, I wouldn't put it in a small cup. I would put it in a big wine glass and serve it like a beautiful white wine," she says. According to her, you should allow sake to breathe, put it to your nose, swirl it, give it a good swish, see the color, see the texture, and see the coating on the glass! Only after these steps, you will begin to understand sake in a Western way.

Using a wine glass sounds a good idea to enjoy sake with a rich bouquet (especially first aroma note). Also, enough contact with the air may fully extract the taste of sake.

By the way, the per-litter export value of the sake exported to the United States last year was twice or three times higher than those exported to Korea, Taiwan, and China. This could be calculated from the total quantity and total amount of export value of sake exported to each country (I collected the data from an article of "Jokai Times," which reports movement in the sake and other alcoholic beverage industries). So, we can guess that people in the United States (and maybe in European countries) usually drink special designation sake including junmai, ginjo, and daiginjo sake. From this presumption, it may stand to reason that they use big wine glasses for drinking sake.

In a Japanese way, to the contrary, people use the dedicated sake-tasting cup called kikijoko for sake tasting. The cup contains as much as 180 ml of sake. It is a porcelain cup, and is not transparent like a wine glass is. Instead, it has a thick blue co-centric circles on the bottom inside, which are useful for seeing the color and transparency of sake. So, it can be said that the kikijoko is somehow similar to a wine glass in terms of the functionality.

I myself prefer an earthenware ochoko to a wine glass to drink sake. Many of the Japanese have the ability of slurping sake with making noise. Westerners may not be good at drinking sake in this way, and this drinking way may even sound rude for Westerners. But, actually I sip sake by slurping it. With this method, sake is taken into my mouth instantaneously being mixed with the air, so it probably helps the taste of sake fully be extracted.

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