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Monday, November 10, 2014

Sake Bombing - The Definitive Guide to Rice Wine

Sake, the poor confused, misunderstood stepchild to wine. I know very little about sake; yes I’ve had it at Japanese restaurants and sushi joints offered by people who probably know only slightly more than I do – and that ain’t saying much. So when John Gaunter’s latest book, Sake Confidential; a beyond the basics guide to understanding, tasting, selection & enjoyment  ($11.95, Stone Bridge Press) appeared I needed to get a copy. There’s a Japanese proverb that says - “It is the man who drinks the first bottle of sake; then the second bottle drinks the first, and finally it is the sake that drinks the man.” Take from that what you will. As an accomplished wine writer it’s easy to assume I know pretty much everything – alas, I don’t and sake is one of those beverages, I admit, is elusive and I’ve taken little time to learn anything useful about – this in spite of the fact that sake (fermented rice) goes back at least 2,000 years. So this book, a slender 180 pages, vastly helped me comprehend the nuances and diversity of sake. Like wine, there are many different sakes utilizing different yeasts, water types, the regionality of the rice and the actual rice itself. And since Gauntner is the only non-Japanese certified Master of Sake, well, the dude abides. “There are certainly other ways to improve your sake tasting skills. Fortunately your experience in tasting other things - including but not limited to wine - is transferable,” he writes. “If you have such experience you may be farther along than you think.” And that’s the cool part of this; if you love wine it’s an easier transition to sake. Gaunter writes in a straightforward style, nothing flamboyant and pretentious, just solid, basic information presented in a compelling style, and compelling enough that you’ll want to learn something about sake. And FYI, there’s actually a sake museum in Berkeley, outside of San Francisco, should this book draw you that deeply into sake.

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