Sparkling sake, also known as “Sparkling Nihonshu,” is a unique variation of traditional sake that undergoes a secondary fermentation process to create bubbles. This process gives it a distinct effervescence and a lively, sparkling quality that sets it apart from regular sake.
One of the main differences between sparkling sake and regular sake lies in their production methods. While both are made from rice, water, and koji (a type of mold), sparkling sake goes through an additional step known as secondary fermentation. This involves adding a small amount of sugar and yeast to the sake after it has been brewed, which triggers a second fermentation process inside a sealed tank. As a result, carbon dioxide is created, leading to the formation of bubbles in the sake.
In terms of appearance, sparkling sake is noticeably effervescent, with a lively stream of bubbles dancing in the glass. It often has a pale, straw-like color, similar to regular sake, but the bubbles add a visually appealing and enchanting element to the drink.
The taste profile of sparkling sake also differs from regular sake. Regular sake can range from sweet to dry, but sparkling sake typically leans towards the sweeter end of the spectrum. It often exhibits fruity and floral notes, with a delicate sweetness that is balanced by the bubbles. The bubbles provide a light and refreshing mouthfeel, enhancing the overall drinking experience.
Another distinction between the two lies in their alcohol content. Regular sake generally has an alcohol content ranging from 15% to 20%, while sparkling sake tends to have a lower alcohol content, typically between 5% and 12%. This lower alcohol content makes sparkling sake a great option for those seeking a lighter and more refreshing alcoholic beverage.
The texture of sparkling sake is also different from regular sake. The carbonation from the bubbles creates a lively and effervescent feel on the palate. The bubbles can range from fine and delicate to larger and more pronounced, depending on the specific style of sparkling sake. Some may have fat bubbles that give a slightly creamy texture, while others may have tighter bubbles, similar to those found in a Brut sparkling wine, resulting in a dry and crisp mouthfeel.
When it comes to serving, sparkling sake is often enjoyed chilled, just like regular sake. It can be served in a wine glass or a champagne flute to showcase the bubbles and enhance the visual appeal. The effervescence of sparkling sake adds an extra layer of excitement and celebration to any occasion.
In my personal experience, I have come across a range of sparkling sake styles, each with its own unique characteristics. I have tried sparkling sakes that had a pronounced sweetness, reminiscent of ripe fruits, with fine and delicate bubbles that danced gracefully on the tongue. On the other hand, I have also tasted sparkling sakes with a drier profile, where the bubbles were more tightly knit, creating a crisp and refreshing sensation.
To summarize, sparkling sake stands apart from regular sake due to its secondary fermentation process, which results in the creation of bubbles. It has a distinct appearance, taste profile, and mouthfeel, with a lower alcohol content compared to regular sake. Whether you prefer a sweet and fruity sparkling sake or a dry and crisp one, there are various styles to explore, each offering a unique and delightful drinking experience.