Have you ever wondered how to read a sake label? While incredibly informative, these labels contain a lot more than general administrative details and can be confusing to both seasoned sake drinkers and newcomers alike. Today we’ll be taking a deeper look into what kind of information is on a sake label, how consumers can use labels to select a brew that fits their needs, and a glance into the growing movement toward western-style labels as sake continues to rise in popularity worldwide. Unlike most alcoholic beverages, the label on a sake bottle can tell you everything you need to know about the beverage. This can include the type of sake [Junmai Daiginjo, Junmai Ginjo, Junmai], ingredients that make the brew unique, and important information on how the sake is made. In Japan, there are labeling requirements and regulations that breweries must adhere to, and they are as follows

  1. Product Name
  2. Producer’s Name and Address [Name and location of the brewery]
  3. Net Content [How much sake is in the bottle by volume i.e., 720ml or 1800ml]
  4. Alcohol Content [The percentage of alcohol by volume, in sake its usually around 15%]
  5. Ingredients [Type of rice, neutral spirits and additives if applicable]
  6. Date of Production [When the sake was bottled, regardless of production date]
  7. Legal Statement on Drinking [denotes the legal drinking age, 20 in Japan and 21 in the USA]

Additional to these labeling mainstays, breweries can opt to provide detailed data of the sake, thus providing a prospective consumer with further insight into the flavor and composition of the product.

  • Rice Milling Rate [The amount of rice remaining after the polishing process, in percentage form]
  • Sake Meter Value [SMV] [How sweet or dry a sake tastes, indicated by the density of sake compared to water. A lower number indicates a sweeter taste, a higher value indicates a drier one]
  • Acidity [Denotes the acid content in the brew. Acidity in sake stabilizes the level of sweetness, and a higher number communicates that the beverage is more acidic]
  • Amino Acid Content [Indicates the number of amino acids in the sake]
As sake continues to rise in popularity, especially in countries like the United States, Hong Kong and France, the need for western-style labels that are easy to read for an international audience is rapidly growing. Many of the larger breweries in Japan have taken the initiative to produce their labels in English, and this can be seen through many of the amazing products we sell on our website. Historically, breweries [especially the smaller ones] didn’t place much of an emphasis on what the label looked like and focused primarily on the taste inside the bottle. In the consumer-driven era that is the 21st century, the sake industries next big challenge will be how to effectively market their products and label their bottles not only in English, but a multitude of languages where their bottles are being distributed. With demand for sake falling off domestically, the breweries must continue to find ways to adapt and compete against local brews on the global stage, and that begins with alternative labeling that fits the needs of buyers across the planet.

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