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Tasting carbonated kassei junmaishu


The great majority of people think of sake as an uncarbonated, fragrant alcoholic beverage.


But there are some types of sake that bubble and fizz, with a mouth-feel like champagne. These are called kassei junmaishu. One of the keys to enjoying sake is to give these carbonated sake varieties a try.


Kassei junmaishu
Just as there are sparkling wines like champagne, there are also varieties of carbonated sake. Wine is made from grapes, whereas sake is made from rice, so kassei junmaishu has its own distinct flavor that is different from that of champagne.


Kassei junmaishu is broadly divided into two types: clear and cloudy.


Clear kassei junmaishu has a pale amber color. Indeed, it looks just like champagne. However, with its own distinctive aroma and tiny bubbles, it is a different taste experience from champagne. This type of sake is known as kassei-shu or happō seishu.


Sparkling varieties of cloudy sake, on the other hand, are referred to as kassei nigorizake or happōsei nigorizake.


Where do the bubbles come from?
In making sake, yeast is used to ferment the brew. Yeast converts sugar to alcohol, eventually producing an alcoholic beverage. Along the way, as various enzymes are produced, the basic ingredients of rice and water are transformed into Nihon-shu (sake).


After an appropriate amount of fermentation has taken place, the mixture is pressed. The freshly expressed sake is known as genshu. This genshu contains various constituents such as yeast and enzymes.


If it is left to sit, this genshu will change in quality. That is, the yeast and enzymes will cause the sake to perish. To prevent this from happening, the sake typically undergoes heat treatment, raising the temperature sufficiently to pasteurize it. This step is called hi-ire. Sake that has been pasteurized in this way can be stored for a long time without perishing.


However, in some cases, the sake does not undergo this heat treatment. Sake produced without any hi-ire is called namazake.


When namazake is produced, it retains carbonic acid from the fermentation process. If this is bottled, the result is sparkling sake. When hi-ire is performed, carbonic acid is eliminated, so the resulting drink is not kassei junmaishu.


An important point to note is that sparkling sake needs to be kept refrigerated. Because it contains live yeast and enzymes, in a warm environment, fermentation will take place within the bottle, and the quality of the drink will be affected. This is to be avoided.


Because kassei-shu (sparkling sake) has not undergone heat treatment, it needs to be treated with care.


Another type of drink is sake that has been carbonated after being pasteurized and filtered. This is to be distinguished from the kassei junmaishu described above.

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