Saké-and-Cheese Pairings

The Japanese rice wine complements a range of foods, including cheese.


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Think you should sip saké only with Japanese food? Think again. The traditional Japanese drink, brewed by fermenting rice, has a broad range of flavors and styles that pairs with various foods. 

“So many people think of saké only with Japanese restaurant food, but it’s a global beverage,” says Tamiko Ishidate, saké sales manager for the distributing company Young’s Market Company. “A bolder saké can stand up to Indian food, and many pair well with French food and Vietnamese food. Cheese and saké is agood introduction to the range of possible pairings.”

Indeed, saké pairs naturally well with cheese because both contain lactic acid, also known as milk acid. In cheese, lactic acid contributes to the aromas and flavors, and guards against the growth of unwanted bacteria and molds. In saké, which is made with water, rice, yeast and a specific mold (koji), lactic acid adds a distinct creamy, buttery feel and a yogurt-like nose.

Check out Ishidate’s top saké-and-cheese pairings. Ishidate suggests serving the saké semi chilled, at about 60°F.

Pecorino with truffle with Shichi Hon Yari Junmai Ginjo
The earthy nose and savory notes of this relatively high-acid saké complement the nutty and salty flavors of a hard Italian sheep’s milk cheese like pecorino. It’s made at one of the oldest saké breweries in Japan. Imported by Joto Sake LLC.
abv: 15–16%                                 Price: $30/ 720ml

Foggy Morning with Kanbara Bride of the Fox Junmai Ginjo
This soft, milky cheese from the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company is a particularly great match for Kanbara’s round, nutty and assertive Bride of the Fox saké. Imported by Vine Connections.
abv: 16.5%                                    Price: $35/720 ml

Point Reyes Farmstead Original Blue with Konteki Tears of Dawn Daiginjo
Made in an area of Japan known for its soft water, this saké has a lovely, sensuous mouthfeel that gets lost when paired with a fresh, mild cheese. However, when paired with the creamy and not-too-salty blue cow’s milk cheese, the complexity of the saké melds beautifully while retaining its luxurious texture. Imported by Vine Connections.
abv: 15.5%                                    Price: $39/720 ml 

Bonne Bouche Ash-Ripened Goat Cheese with Fukucho Moon on the Water Junmai Ginjo
This rich, floral sake softens the sharpness of this ash-ripened, salty goat cheese from Vermont. It’s made in Hiroshima by one of the few female saké masters, or toji, in Japan. Imported by Vine Connections.
abv: 16.5%                                    Price: $40/720 ml 

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