I was dithering about what to do for the Winter Solstice Tasting this year, and then thought... Sake!
So I hunted down a sake expert to come to the house and found some kindred spirits to join me on the taste adventure.
We'll be trying five different types:
- Namanam (unpasteurized)
- Namacho (once pasteurized)
- Nigori (cloudy)
- Teion (white-wine-like acidity)
- Genshu (undiluted)
Then Caroline sent me info on the "surprising affinity between Canadian cheese and sake." How irresistible is that? Apparently, since sake has a lower acidity than wine and no tannins, the resulting rounder flavours make it a complementary (rather than contrasting) pairing. Also, both cheese and sake are bursting with umami flavours, and the more umami in the sake, the more complementary it will be to cheese.
Although there are categories of sake, there are huge variations within each. For example, much Nigori sake is sweet and creamy in texture, but there is a variety "so chunky you will be tempted to eat it with a fork. Taste Buds and Molecules suggests pairing a chilled Nigori to calm the fire of capsaicin hot peppers.
SakeWorld is a fantastic introduction to the complexities of rice wine. That's where I found this handy flavour profile chart:
John Gauntner, founder of SakeWorld, is a world-renowned expert on the subject, and suggests pairing based primarily on acidity, umami and texture. In a post at Steamy Kitchen he writes, "Fortunately, it is hard to have a real mismatch with sake: even if the pairing is not perfect, you have leeway. So feel free to experiment."
We'll need to find out a bit more about the sake we will be sipping before settling on the food pairings, but I'm already twirling around with some ideas.
Sake – Food Pairing Chart – Starting with Sake