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T+L Reports: Sake Primer

Now that sake is a staple at more and more restaurants and bars around the globe, it's a good time to learn about the mysterious Japanese rice wine. To get a jump start, T+L asked sommelier Hiromi Iuchi of New York's Sake Service Institute to give us a few tips.

1. Cool it. High-quality sake made from polished rice grains (categorized as daiginjo and ginjo) is best served cold. Heat can dull subtle aromas.

2. Fresh is better. Unlike wine, sake is not supposed to be aged. If it's slightly cloudy, it has been recently filtered.

3. Prepare to pair. Match fruity, delicate daiginjo and ginjo to lighter dishes. Less expensive sake, or junmai, is fuller-bodied and stands up to heavy sauces.That's often what will be served hot.

4. Lose the bamboo. You wouldn't pour Bordeaux into a wooden box, so don't drink your sake out of one, either. A thin-rimmed glass works best.

5. Sip it like wine. Swirl the sake in the glass, smell it, then swish it in your mouth to appreciate the taste.

6. Drink up. You'll learn more about sake only by sampling different types. Here, a few of our favorite sources in the United States:
• Chibitini 63 Clinton St., New York; 212/674-7300.
• Mirai Sushi 2020 W. Division St., Chicago; 773/862-8500.
• Anzu 222 Mason St., San Francisco; 415/394-1100.
—Maile Carpenter

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