Sake (Nihonshu)

‘Pure sake’ (in Japanese junmai or junmaishu) is a modern, postwar term, and links in many ways to the term ‘natural wine’. In both cases they are terms that advocate limited intervention and no or minimal additions. Just like ‘natural wine’, ‘pure sake’ is a term that arose as a reaction against postwar industrial and chemical practices in wine/sake-making. Whereas in wine the addition of sulfites and yeasts forms the major obstacle to the enjoyment of the pure taste and aroma of the grape, the terroir and the hand of the maker, in sake it is the addition of distilled alcohol.

Sake Terminology

Bodaimotō – medieval starter method developed by Buddhist Monks – rice is soaked in water before being steamed, a portion inoculated with kōji, and added to the moto.
Daiginjo – rice polished to 50% or less.
Genshu – undiluted sake.
Ginjo – rice polished to 60% or less.
Junmai / junmaishu – 100% pure rice sake.
Kimoto – ancient starter method in which steamed rice, water, and kōji is mashed into a puree with long wooden poles and fermented for 30-40 days until the moto is ready.
Kōji – rice mold used to convert starch into sugar.
Kura – sake brewery.
Kuramoto – brewery owner.
Muroka – no carbon filtration.
Nama – unpasteurized sake.
Shubō (motō) – yeast starter comprised of rice, water, yeast, and native or added lactic acid.
Tōji – master brewer of a kura.
Yamahai – slow starter method consisting of koji rice, water, and yeast. Similar to kimoto, but without the laborious mashing.