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The Asian side of the world - II

Jean-François Sabouret

Part Two. National challenges and strategies

Sake, a Japanese exception

Nicolas Baumert

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November 2011

Sake has as important a cultural connotation in Japan as wine in Europe. However, this beverage is not well known outside the Far East. Contrary to popular belief, sake is not a strong distilled beverage; it is in fact “rice wine”, produced by fermentation of rice in water, and the alcohol content is usually between 12 and 17 degrees. Sake, also called nihonshu in Japanese (meaning “Japanese wine”), is one of a number of beverages made from rice, but the exclusive appropriation by Japanese culture is an interrogation.

Sake is one of a number of similar drinks found throughout East Asia and could represent any rice civilization, but only in Japan has it been almost exclusively appropriated as an identity product.

Japanese rice wine

In the Far East, rice wines are ancient products and are found almost everywhere, from China to Nepal, including the Indochinese peninsula, Indonesia, the Philippines and Korea. For example, haungjiu (“yellow wine”) is a rice wine produced in sev...

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