Manufacture of Sake and Rice Wines

As noted in Chapter 10, most wines produced throughout the world rely on grapes as the starting raw material. Grapes used for wine making ordinarily contain an ample amount of glucose and fructose, which are readily fermented by the endogenous yeasts or added pure yeast cultures. In contrast, when starchy substrates, such as rice, are used as the raw material, the complex polysaccharides (mainly amylose and amy-lopectin) must first be hydrolyzed to produce fermentable sugars.When rice wines were first developed, this hydrolysis step was done by chewing and masticating the rice. As will be discussed below, saccharification is now performed by a rice koji, not unlike the koji used in the soy sauce and miso fermentations.

The most well-known rice wine is sake (rhymes with hockey), a Japanese rice wine that likely originated in China, probably several millennia ago. Many other rice-derived wines and alcoholic beverages exist throughout the Far East. Examples include shaosing (Chinese rice wine), awamori (a Japanese product distilled from rice), makgeolli (Korean rice wine), and ruou (Vietnamese rice wine). Historically, many of these wines have long been associated with Shintoism and Buddhism religious rites. For many years, until relatively recently, rice wines were the most popular alcoholic products consumed in Japan, China, and other Asian countries. Current (year 2000) per capita consumption of sake in Japan is 8.2 L, nearly 50% less than was consumed in 1970. Consumption of rice wine in China is now (2003) only 1 L per person per year (of course, that is still a lot of sake, considering there are nearly 1.3 billion people living in China). The decrease in sake popularity is due mainly to increased beer consumption (with per capita consumption of about 20 L in both Japan and China). In contrast, in the United States, sake is on the upswing, with several modern sake manufacturing facilities, although the total U.S. market is still very small.

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