As far back as civilisation has existed, mankind has always enjoyed alcohol. From the early Egyptians to ancient China and India, historical evidence has pointed towards the existence of fermented drinks often brewed from the available ingredients of that era. Fast forward to the 21st century, alcohol is still available in wide supply and enjoyed around the world copiously. Every country seemingly manufactures a signature beverage, which they often make a big show of championing. Steeped in tradition and refined through centuries of research, these beverages deserve every little bit of praise lavished onto them.
If you’re still wondering what we’re referring to, read on to find out more!
Japan - Sake
Let’s get something clear - despite its clear nature and tendency to be served in tiny cups, sake is not a spirit. Rather, sake is defined as a brewed alcohol, a byproduct of fermentation. Like wine or beer, which are the results of fermenting grapes and malted barley respectively, sake is derived from the fermentation of polished short-grain rice.
The process of brewing sake begins with Koji, a fungus that possesses enzymes that helps break down the rice starch into sugar. Yeast is then added to the koji-rice mixture, which ferments the sugar and produces alcohol as a byproduct. Brewers then proceed by squeezing the mass of fermented koji-rice, collecting the liquid and further clarifying it before storing it in tanks. At this point, the liquid is allowed to mellow and age a bit before being diluted with water and bottled as sake.
A key reason why sake is a popular alcoholic drink amongst native Japanese or consumers around the world is because of its mellow and subtle flavour notes. Brewers differ in the type of koji spores and yeast used, resulting in an appealing variety of tastes.
Germany - Lager
Stemming from the German word for storage, the term “lager” alludes to how the drink is traditionally stored and fermented at low temperatures. In practice, beer and lager are often interchangeable terms with very little difference. To be even more pedantic, German lager is normally fermented bottom-up, and this sets it apart from other beer variants such as ale.
German appreciation for the drink is deeply rooted in its rich past to their culture, as well as its accessibility. Beer and lager were historically used as a substitute for clean drinking water, with German laws enacted as early as 1516 to ensure the purity and quality of German brewed beers. This national appreciation of beer is none more evident than in the annual Oktoberfest where citizens gather to celebrate and feast while consuming lavish amounts of the golden liquid.
France - Bordeaux Wine
A name was given to all wines originating from the titular French province, Bordeaux wines may present themselves in both red and white varieties. The former, usually made out of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, possess medium to full bodies that are usually aged to balance out the strong tannin flavours. Meanwhile, white Bordeaux wines are dry and sweet, consisting of Sauvignon Blanc, Sauternes and Semillon.
The process of brewing Bordeaux isn’t unlike other wines - grapes are harvested and crushed before fermentation in stainless steel vats. These fermented crushed grapes, known as must, are then pressed and transferred into large wine barrels where they are left to age. What distinguishes Bordeaux from the rest is that bottled Bordeaux wines are a mix of different grape varieties and are scarcely made up of a single one. This is also what leads to the unique and complex flavour profile that many enthusiasts go crazy for.
Best served just under 18 degrees celsius, red Bordeauxs should be decanted when possible in order to allow the wine to breathe and let the tannins set. This removes the unwanted metallic and overly acidic nature of the wine, fully opening up its true nature.
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