2018.06.12

Unorganized Labeling and Grading Regulation of Sake

 BAMRestaurant

Junmai, Honjozo, Kimoto, Yamahai etc...
I know sake has a lot of mysterious words. On top of that, some of the labels are not describing some important information to have a picture of roughly how the taste looks like.
This is all caused by the vague regulation of Japanese alcohol tax law. This article points out the 4 most vague and complicated points in labeling and grading regulation of sake.
We hope you will understand the label and grade is not everything to select the sake for Tonight.

1. Tokubetsu-Junmai, Honjozo

特別 means "special" in Japanese. In this grading scale, "Tokubetsu" grade is positioned under the Ginjo grade. However, no regulations are specified by the law. The regulations describe as follows;

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"Something like rice, water, production process and polish rate, are different from normal Junmai or Honjozo type."

Something????
It's all relied on breweries if they call the label Junmai or Tokubetsu-Junmai. Sometimes, Tokubetsu grade is more expensive than normal Ginjo grade.

This is my opinion but Tokubetsu grade is their challenging label. Tokubetsu grade is normally released after normal Junmai, Ginjo, Daiginjo grade. By utilizing the full of their knowledge and experience, brewers try to produce the new label as Tokubetsu grade.
This is complicated grade but we take the sake of this grade as the future of each brewery. SAKEMARU describes what the specialty of Tokubestu grades.

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|Sake Grading Scale|


2. The regulation of polish rate in Junmai Grade

Junmai type currently doesn't have any regulation of polish rate. Only regulation is producing with only rice, not adding the distilled alcohol. To be extreme, brewers can call both the sake of 90% polish rate and that of 5% polish rate as Junmai grade as long as it's produced only with rice.

Some breweries started to stop using the grading. SAKEMARU family "Senkin" is also one of them. Most of their labels are produced with the rice polished more than 50%. It means normally it's positioned in Daiginjo grade, however, they don't indicate "Daiginjo" in their labels.

They consider this grading is just an old classification to rank the price of sake because the sake produced with the highly polished rice is naturally more expensive from the necessary quantity perspective.
The quality of sake is not defined by only polish rate.


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|Senkin Kabutomushi Produced with the Rice polished 50%|


3. The brand of rice

There is also regulation for rice to be referred to as branded rice. Normally, breweries and farmers have thrown the unqualified rice away, because the sake produce with those unqualified rice can't be graded. Even though it's polished more than 50%, we can't call it Daiginjo. It's just a sake.

However, some breweries started to brew sake with those unqualified rice. Through the improvement of brewing tech and skill, they could have elevated the quality of those sake.
Of cause, the CP is quite high!!

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Azakura's Sake Produced with Unqualified Rice|


4. The obligation of indication in the label

This is a very unfriendly part. Followings are the important information to select sake but not regulated to display;

・Rice brand
・SMV
・Acidity
・Amino acid rate
・Aging

Those are quite important information for consumers to select the label, however, it's not regulated to display.
Also, there are no regulations as for the specialty of brewing method like Kimoto, Yamahai, Unpasteurized and so forth.

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We hope that unorganized situation will be improved as quickly as possible. Until that time, we SAKEMARU will describe all those important information.

Please check our articles then you will understand rice brands and SPECs of sake and the specialty of sake.