Rice Wine

Rice wine is a fairly popular staple of Asia. Its popularity, over history, has spread its way West and become a common enough spirit there. Rice wine doesn’t share the same fermentation process as fruit based wines, but rather undergoes a brewing method quite similar to beer. As with the brewing of beers, first the starch from the rice is processed into sugar, and then the sugar is used to produce the alcohol. Though with rice wines, these steps can occur simultaneously.

The most popular rice wine in the West is undoubtedly Japan’s sake. Sake is a clear rice wine that is served hot in the winter and cold in the summer. Most commonly sake is drank from tiny ceramic cups about the size of an espresso mug, and poured from a small ceramic flask. Sake can carry fruit and sour notes, and often carries a bit of a bight.

In Korea, the king of rice wine is makkoli. Makkoli is a sweet, milky rice and wheat based wine. Its texture and flavour are much milder than rice wines like sake. Makkoli is commonly served from a large metal kettle or bowl, and is poured or ladled out into smaller bowl-like cups to drink. As makkoli is most commonly served cold, the large kettle or bowl usually rests atop a bin of ice between pours.

Makkoli is available in virtually every eatery in Korea and can also be purchased in bottles from the local market or corner store – give it a good shake before opening. However, if you’re lucky enough to know someone who makes his or her own makkoli, this is certainly preferable. Well-brewed makkoli should carry a fine fizziness to it, rather similar to champagne.

These two wines are popular traditions that have made their way West. However, most Asian countries have myriad variations of rice wines and accompanying serving methods to offer. Among other places, one can also find rice wines in Vietnam, China, Tibet, India, and Indonesia.

(image credit: travelblog.net)

Posted by | Comments (2)  | February 23, 2011
Category: Asia, Food and Drink

2 Responses to “Rice Wine”

  1. GypsyGirl Says:

    Oh,I just love sake–as I am allergic to most other alcohol.

  2. Mike Says:

    Aged sake, which has been technologically less nailed down than wine, can either taste like decanted cat’s piss or be absolutely fantastic.

    For some of the good stuff, stop by a sake bar/store (with a name I’ve forgotten) that’s on the second floor of WING Takanawa, across from Shinagawa station in Tokyo.