FAQ: Sake



FAQ:  What is Sake?

I <3 Sake.  Just ask my coworkers.  I taste my fair share, all in the name of science of course.  It’s just SO GOOD.  This infatuation didn’t occur until I started to learn about it though.  So in an attempt to share my love with the world, here’s the skinny on Sake:

What is Sake? 

Pronounced Sak-eh, not sak-eee.  Who knew?!  Sake is kind of its own thing. What it is not is rice wine; wine has to be made from fruit and Sake is made from starch.  It is actually more closely related to beer, as it is ‘brewed’ by converting rice starch to sugar alcohol using yeast and a very special type of mold called ‘Koji-kin’.  The mold is clutch.  You can’t make Sake without it.  Over 65 varieties of rice may be used when making Sake, but the Yamada Nishiki seems to be the grain of choice for the premium stuff.  

What are the different styles of Sake?

Just like wine and beer, there’s something for everyone!  Sake is divided into two main categories: with distillate added and without…with a few other variations of these styles in between:

Junmai: polished to 70%.  Only uses water, rice and Koji mold.  Junmai means ‘pure’, so no distillate is added if you see it on the label.

Honjozo: polished to 70%.  Small amount of brewer’s alcohol/distillate added to Sake before pressing.

Ginjo: polished to 60%.  Honjozo in style (distillate added); if no distillate is added it will be labeled Junmai Ginjo

Daiginjo:  polished to 50%.  Honjozo in style (distillate added); if no distillate is added it will be labeled Junmai Daiginjo.

Nigori: Unfiltered Sake.  Cloudy with rice sediment, slightly sweet and fuller bodied.

Genshu: Undiluted Sake, and thus higher in alcohol

Namazake:  Unpasteurized Sake

So if you see a ‘Junmai Ginjo Ushu Nigori’ you now know that means it is a pure (no distillate), unfiltered premium Sake.  Go you! 

How is Sake made?

In order to produce Sake, rice grains are milled or ‘polished’ to remove the outer husk.  The pure starchy heart of the rice grain produces the best Sake.  So the more it’s polished, the less raw material there is to make the good stuff, which means it takes more grains to produce.  Hence, higher polish equals higher price.  All Sake is always labeled to the degree in which it was polished, just in case you couldn’t tell from the price tag.  

Sake can technically be made anywhere, but in my humble opinion the best stuff comes from Japan.  That’s not to say that U.S. and Canada aren’t producing anything of quality, but the Japanese have had about 1,000 years more practice.  Just sayin’.  U.S. Sake tends to be clean, and more one noted while Japanese Sake has more delicate aromas ranging from melons and fruit to floral to umami.  Discovering the diversity in styles is half the fun (the other half is drinking it, just in case you were wondering).

Which Sake is sweet and which is dry?

Sake can be anywhere from bone dry to quite sweet.  The residual sugar is indicated on the back label by the SVM meter (Sake Value Meter).  The SVM measures specific gravity, or density in contrast to H20.  The scale goes from -4 to +4.  Negative numbers mean sweet, positive number mean it is dry, with zero being neutral.  So if a Sake is -1.5, it is very slightly off dry, where as a -4 is sweet.

Do you drink Sake hot or cold?

Ideally, Sake should be served lightly chilled or room temperature.  Heating it disrupts the delicate aromas of premium Sake, but will mask flaws in lower quality Sake; heating also enhances the alcohol ‘flavor’.  This is not me saying ‘don’t drink hot sake’!  What it is saying is don’t drink really good Sake hot.


We have a wonderful and ever growing Sake selection in both stores.  If you have any questions, or just feel like shooting the breeze about Sake, stop down in Wilton and see me (or see Eddie if you happen to be in Ridgefield).


Holly Phillips

Asst. Wine Director

sort by:
Momokawa Diamond Sake
Momokawa Diamond Sake (720ml)

Balance is a delicate practice exhibited in Momokawa Diamond, our top selling sake for many years. Diamond offers a perfect starting point to explore Momokawa as it is neither dry or fruity, it is balanced and offers harmony of... Read More

Price:   $19.99
Momokawa Pearl Sake
Momokawa Pearl Sake (720ml)
Creamy Nigori Sake, Momokawa Pearl is one of our brews that makes us smile really big. Its unexpected, undiluted, minimally pressed to retain hearty rice flavors and its one we were told would never be popular because no one drinks... Read More
Price:   $19.99
Momokawa Silver Sake
Momokawa Silver Sake (720ml)

The driest of the Momokawa lineup, Silver is a labor of love that reflects more classic flavors and characteristics of the sake brewed by our teachers in Japan and one that pairs easily with the range of Japanese cuisine.... Read More

Price:   $19.99
Tozai Snow Maiden Sake
Tozai Snow Maiden Sake (700ml)

Named Snow Maiden in homage to Japan's most famous koi, Hanako, which lived 226 years in the icy waters at the foot of Japan's Mt. Ontake. This is fairly thick and chewy nigori (cloudy sake), but it is still surprisingly dry.... Read More

Price:   $19.99
Tozai Well Of Wisdom Sake
Tozai Well Of Wisdom Sake (700ml)

Tozai Well Of Wisdom Sakeis made by Daimon Shuzo, Osaka Prefecture. Aromas of yellow grapefruit skin and a hint of ripe strawberry. On the palate, the flavors head toward apricot, tangy kiwi, and a touch of grapefruit rind. This... Read More

Price:   $26.99
Yoshinagawa Gensen Karakuchi Sake
Yoshinagawa Gensen Karakuchi Sake (720ml)

Classic, extra-dry style from Niigata Prefecture and our friends at Yoshinogawa. This lovely crisp brew is an exceptional sake to explore whether you are a novice or enthusiast. This is one we recommend sipping either chilled... Read More

Price:   $21.99


The best way to contact us with questions is via email at:


Please email with questions only.

All Orders Must Still Be Placed Online

(We can't take orders via email... sorry)

Thank you for your support!


SAVE 6%* when you buy 6-11 bottles of wine.
SAVE 12%* when you buy 12 or more bottles of wine.

*Discount applies to 750ml only and does not apply to sale items.

Copyright © 2024 All rights reserved Website Powered by WineFetch

"Celebrating Over 90 Years In Business"

Sign up for the Ancona's Wines & Liquors newsletter and be among the first to know about new arrivals, upcoming events, and specials!