How to care for your Premium Sake!
Caring for sake is one of its greatest virtues and one of its greatest challenges. Sake is perishable, thus it is vulnerable to light, heat, and movement. Unlike wine, sake has no sulfites or preservatives, so it should be consumed between 12-18 months after the shipping date, which is usually printed on the label or cap. It has been said that sake does not have the “staying power” found in a bottle of wine, and should be handled with more care. The following are some basic handling guidelines that will ensure your bottles taste as fresh as possible.
- Keep sake out of UV light. This includes everything from the sun to those long humming tubes of florescent light. Although it won’t happen as quickly, sake that is stored in a fridge with florescent lights will change color, and the flavor may be affected in the long run. This is the reason why most sake is packaged in dark or frosted bottles – it is an easy way to protect the fluid from light exposure.
- Keep sake out of heated areas. Tthis includes closets that happen to have a heating duct within, or cabinets near a fridge where the compressors continually pump out heat.
- Keep sake upright. This is the opposite of the wine world where you need to keep bottles on their sides to keep the cork wet. Sake can be stored on its side without a problem, but purists like to keep the fluid from touching the bottom of the cap for long periods of time.
- Keep sake in a dated rotation. This means that you should mentally or physically date your inventory and keep the bottles with the same shipping dates in the same section, with an emphasis on drinking the older brews first.
- Keep sake away from vibrating instruments or items that can cause the brews to move in the bottle. This may include being near washing and drying machines, refrigerators, or by garage doors.
- Keep sakes that say “store in refrigerator” in the refrigerator! This includes single-pasteurized and unpasteurized brews, high end Daiginjo and Ginjo sakes, almost all Junmai sakes (if you are a purist), and nigori sakes. That said most double pasteurized sakes can live in cool – out of heat’s way – dark spaces for 18 months.
- Keep unpasteurized and single pasteurized sakes in the refrigerator. This means that your wine fridge is NOT a good place to store raw sakes. Do not be fooled – a “nama” or “nama-chozo” sake needs to be kept at food refrigeration temperatures and not wine temperatures – think in terms of orange juice, would you put orange juice in your wine cabinet fridge?
- Keep sakes in their box. This means that you should store sake bottles in their specific boxes if they have one because it provides an extra layer of UV protection.
- Keep sakes in their case. This means that you are protecting these brews from UV light and vibration with an extra layer of padding. This also helps you keep the sakes with the same shipping dates together for timely consumption, as opposed to scattered sakes with differing dates.
- Keep “Drink By” dates on or near bottles. This is an idea that makes a lot of sense for those who tend to buy and forget. A visual reminder will help you to drink your sakes in a timely manner thus allowing you to taste the brew's peek flavor.
Sake storage is similar to wine storage in some capacities but far different in other contexts. Cool and dark spaces usually suffice – wine cellars work for some sakes, but not all. Wine refrigerators work for some sakes, but not all. Sake should definitely NOT be considered like wine in terms of when to consume as sake has no sulfites to provide longer shelving time. Sake is more unstable than wine as a result, and should be considered more along the lines of beer with regard to when it is best to consume the brews for maximum enjoyment.