The quality of sake is often shown by the company it keeps
I saw this on a drinks menu from Melbourne. You can pretty much guarantee this is not going to be a quality sake. It made me think of the need to write a short article on the quality of different sakes.
We often talk here at SuperSake about the difference between junmai, junmai ginjo and junmai daiginjo but actually there's another sake we don't discuss much and that's futsushu.
In fact 75% of the sake consumed in japan is futsushu but many attribute the 40% decline in sake consumption in the last 20 years to that.
Futsushu, translated 'ordinary, is sake that is usually mass produced and has sometimes copious amounts of 'jozo' alcohol (a bit like methylated spirits) added to 'bump up' the alcohol content. It came about during the period after WW2 when rice was in short supply in Japan so the ministry of sake relaxed the standards and allowed this to be made.
It pretty much always is drunk warm which masks the quality. Maybe that's why we generally don't like warm or hot sake.
You can pretty much guarantee that the times (years ago) when you went into a mom and pop local Japanese restaurant and asked for a pot of house sake (hot) that's what you were getting. It would come from an 18 litre cardboard cask that they kept hidden under the bench and they would open the 'tap' and let it pour into the sake pot. The microwave for 1 minute on high and Bob's your uncle.
Look, we're not proud of it. We've done it ourselves. But we all need to move on.
There's great junmai sake out there now. Enjoy that.
(By the way, if you ask for 'junmai' you'll be guaranteed that there's no 'jozo' added. Junmai means, loosely translated 'pure rice', so you will get (usually) some great sake).
That's what we drink here at SuperSake. Junmai Sake. And we love it.