Sake: Slightly chilled or Warm?
Many people ask this question, "Is all sake suitable for serving warm?" The short answer is no. Temperature is important when serving sake, it can "make or break" your sake experience. Let me elaborate so you can be confident when serving sake.
Sake flavours are perceived differently depending on the serving temperature
When served slightly chilled (10~13°C), like serving white wine, you can appreciate the its "more refreshing aromatics" and "refined/smoother textures". If its served too cold (5°C), it's harder to distinguish its features. To keep your sake slightly chilled you can use an ice bucket (be aware of the temperature as it shouldn't go below 10°C. You can use a thermometer to be sure), or you can pre-chill it in a refrigerator before serving.
When served warmed (35~55°C), the effect is like decanting matured wine, it opens up the sake and creates a more pronounced character displaying a slight complex nose with a richer, umami forward palate. Keep in mind that if you were too warm a fruity or sweet sake, this would undermine the refreshing aromatics, and emphasize its sweetness. Click here to learn how to warm sake.
To deciding the serving temperature of a sake, one way to refer to the to the sake's classification indicated on the bottles label (click here to know more about sake classifications) .
Sake that are generally suitable to serve slightly chilled (5~13°C) are Junmai Daiginjo 純米大吟醸, Daiginjo 大吟醸, Junmai Ginjo 純米吟醸, Ginjo 吟醸. These sake tend to be more aromatic, floral, fruity and smoother in texture. They can range from being sweet to dry, which works well when they are slightly chilled.
Sake that are generally suitable to serve warm (35~55°C) are Junmai 純米 and Honjozo 本醸造. With a higher milling rate, these sake tend to be richer and have a good amount of umami.Dryness:
Another way to determine the serving temperature is to know if your sake is "Dry" or "Sweet".
Dry sake - Generally suitable to be served chilled and warm.
Sweet sake - Generally suitable to be served chilled. Not suitable to served warm as it becomes too sweet.
We say "generally" because there are many exceptions, and it is best try for yourself or the ask the sommelier or the retailer.
On our online store we give recommended serving temperatures all of our sake.
Common recommended serving temperature
There are many temperature designations in Japan. We've written the practical temperatures in English for your reference.