How Long Does Sake Last (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 2 Years

Sake is known as the rice wine of Japan. It is an alcoholic beverage made by fermentation of rice with an alcohol content of 16-20%. It is usually served warm in a cup called sakazuki. The drink is so much savored in Japan that it is awarded the position of National drink of the country.

The drink has some religious and cultural values as well. It is given to the couple after they complete their wedding rituals. It is served in the holy festivals of the land and is also included in offerings given to the Japanese Gods and Goddesses.

Sake is best consumed within a year of bottling it after the manufacture. However, its life depends on several other factors like refrigeration, pasteurization, etc.

How Long Does Sake Last?

Storage ConditionsDuration
Sake- unopened, pasteurized, and non-refrigerated1 Year
Sake- unopened, pasteurized, and refrigerated 2 Years
Sake- opened, pasteurized, and refrigerated 2-4 Weeks
Sake- unopened, unpasteurized, and refrigerated6 Months
Sake- opened, unpasteurized, and refrigerated1-2 Weeks

The duration has a starting point from the date of bottling the drink. If the drink is stored in a cooled place, the rate of maturation will be slow and it will provide a longer time limit to consume. It is stored in a way similar to the storage of wines- unopened bottles away from light and heat.

It has been suggested to consume the drink within three days of opening the bottle. The maximum you can keep it open but refrigerated is for 1 week for the best taste. After three days, the taste of the drink starts changing however, it is still safe to consume. The bottles are not labeled with manufacturing date because it is of no practical use rather there is an indication of the date of packaging it for the best use of the consumer.

Since it is an alcoholic beverage, there is no expiry date mentioned on the bottle which means that it will be safe to consume even after few hours of bottling, but there would be no guarantee of how degraded its taste and quality will be that point of time. It keeps on maturing under several conditions such as heat and light when exposed to them after opened or unopened.

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Why Does It Last That Long?

The drink is made by fermenting rice in various rounds. It is a pure rice-based alcoholic drink with minimum preservatives. Since there are no or minimum preservatives added, the bottled sake is prone to spoilage. Even though it is fermented and speaks high of its shelf life, it is not qualified to consume after a certain period prescribed as above.

The life of the drink heavily depends upon the storage conditions. It will survive comparatively longer when it is stored in a sealed and pasteurized manner in a cold environment. However, when it is kept in temperatures greater than 20 degrees of Celsius, the life reduces to 1 year. Once opened, it will not last longer than few weeks and will start giving off-taste. Air and heat exposure is the worst condition you can provide to your fermented drink. The exposure will lead to rapid oxidization of Sake which in turn will degrade its quality and taste for consumption.

After the mentioned durations in specific conditions, the drink is prone to produce a pungent smell, some particles floating in the drink, off-taste, an apparent yellow tint in the drink, etc. All of these effects make the drink non-desirable. If the quality of the drink is not suitable, why would one prefer to intake it even if there are no harmful side effects? Therefore, it must be consumed within 2 years of the bottling date for the best taste.

Conclusion

Sake is a drink with no preservatives. For a good reason, it is the national drink of Japan. The drink comes expensive and hence, it becomes important to store it properly for its best consumption. The shelf-life of Sake is not so short if the conditions to store are properly maintained. It must be stored away from direct sunlight and air for the best consumption. If you ever get to visit Japan, you give this rice wine a try as it is all worth it.

References

  1. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s11628-013-0227-5.pdf
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/16258312.2009.11517212
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