Montreal is familiar ground for wine and spirit festivals throughout the year, but when it comes to sake, enthusiasts have only one annual occasion to celebrate their preferred rice wine: KAMPAI Montreal

The Quebec Sake Association presents its 2nd edition of Quebec’s only Sake festival Thursday October 10th, 2019. It will showcase an exciting range of over 180 sakes and Japanese food by Montreal’s top chefs and restaurants.

One should come prepared to a saki event of this magnitude. Hopefully this introductory guide will help you navigate the world of sake at this year’s KAMPAI Montreal!

What is sake?

In English, Sake refers to the alcoholic fermented rice beverage from Japan that you probably sampled at a Japanese restaurant or local sake bar, if you’re lucky!

In Japan Sake refers to all alcoholic drinks or nihonshu. It translates as Japanese alcohol, and you will be greeted with a smile if you ask for nihonshu at an izakaya (Japanese pub)!

Key Sake Terms

There are some key concepts and terms that will help you wrap your head around this delicious drink. It can be classified by several factors, including the type of rice used, where it was produced, the degree to which the rice has been polished, brewing processes, how it was filtered, and more.

Polishing

One of the first steps in sake making is the polishing of the rice. Prior to the actual sake-making process, the rice kernel has to be polished (or milled) to remove the outer layer of each grain, exposing its starchy core.

The more rice has been polished, the higher the classification level, as long as it’s made from quality ingredients by good brewers. Ultimately, you should trust your own palate and preferences.

Junmai

Junmai is the Japanese word meaning pure rice. An important term in the world of sake, the separation of pure rice from non-pure rice sake. It is brewed using rice, water, yeast, and koji (no other additives, like sugar or alcohol).

Unless a bottle of sake says junmai  (in Japanese 純米), it will have added brewers alcohol and/or other additives.

Should Sake be served hot or cold?

There is no hard and fast rule, and the most important considerations are the particular sake in question and your own preferences. When you drink sake hot, it is called atsukan and has traditionally been served warm. Nowadays, most premium sake tastes best when slightly chilled. If it is too chilled, however, many of its flavor components are masked, just like wines.

Many sake varieties taste great at different temperatures, as different temperatures draw out distinctive attributes making it worth the while to experiment for yourself.

Pairing Sake

When pairing Sake with food it has the same rules and ideas as wine – you look for something that’s going to compliment or contrast the flavours.

Here are some basics to help you pair: sake is a rice-based wine, ranging from dry and tangy, to crisp and fruity. As a lighter wine, it goes well with seafood and vegetable based dishes. Full bodied sakes can be paired with slightly spicy, deep-fried, and saltier foods.

From experience here are 5 surprising dishes that pair well with Sake: lobster (dry, savoury sake), Spanish tapas (cold off, dry sake), pickled vegetables (light, dry sake), caviar light (sparkling sake) and Indian curry (sweeter sake).

When?
Thursday,10th of October 2019
Marché Bonsecours – Ballroom
350 rue St-Paul, Montreal, H2Y 1H2

Program
1PM to 4PM: trade and media, Seminar level 1 and 2 with sake tasting session
5:30PM to 8:30PM: Public sake tasting & Japanese – Asian food

Ticket price for public tasting
Early bird: $60 – At the door: $80
Includes 1 glass and 20 coupons (value of $ 2 each)
Tickets can be bought online trough Eventbrite and the ASQ Facebook page

The Quebec Sake Association (ASQ) is a non-profit organisation established in 2017 regrouping Quebec-based saké importers. It’s main goal is to promote and educate about the culture and enjoyment of sake in a responsible way.