What is the highest quality sake?

Answered by Christopher Steppe

The highest quality is known as daiginjo, which is considered the most premium style of sake. The word “Dai” means “big” or “more,” while “ginjo” refers to a specific process. This combination results in a light-bodied sake that is incredibly aromatic.

As a sommelier and brewer, I have had the opportunity to taste and appreciate a wide variety of sakes. Daiginjo stands out as a pinnacle of craftsmanship and expertise in the sake world.

One of the defining characteristics of daiginjo is its light body. It is delicate on the palate, with a smooth and refined texture. This lightness allows the flavors and aromas of the sake to shine through without overwhelming the senses. It is a truly elegant and sophisticated style of sake.

Another distinguishing feature of daiginjo is its aromatic profile. The brewing process for daiginjo involves using highly polished rice, which removes the outer layers and exposes the starchy core. This results in a cleaner, more refined flavor profile and allows for the development of complex and expressive aromas. The fragrances can range from floral and fruity to earthy and even tropical.

I recall a particular daiginjo that I had the pleasure of tasting during a visit to a sake brewery in Japan. The aroma was incredibly captivating, with hints of melon, pear, and white flowers. It was like a sensory journey, with each sip revealing new layers of flavor and aroma. The balance of sweetness and acidity was impeccable, and the finish was long and satisfying.

It's important to note that the production of daiginjo requires a high level of skill and attention to detail. The rice must be milled to at least 50% of its original size, resulting in a higher concentration of starch. The fermentation process is carefully monitored to ensure optimal conditions for the to convert the starches into .

In addition to the technical aspects of production, daiginjo is often associated with the concept of “omotenashi” in culture. This term encompasses the idea of wholehearted hospitality and the pursuit of perfection. Brewers who craft daiginjo often pour their passion and dedication into every batch, striving to create a sake that is both delicious and memorable.

To summarize, daiginjo is the highest quality sake, renowned for its light body and aromatic complexity. It represents the pinnacle of craftsmanship and is a testament to the skill and dedication of sake brewers. Whether enjoyed on its own or paired with a fine meal, daiginjo is a true delight for the senses.