Sake Confidential: A beyond the basics guide to understanding, tasting, selection & enjoyment – John Gauntner (Stone Bridge Press)
With this being his sixth book on the subject, John Gauntner, one of the world’s leading non-Japanese sake experts, takes a slightly different route from his previous writings.
Over the course of some 27 episodic chapters he breaks down many of the myths about his favoured tipple. Indeed it is this format that drew me towards Sake Confidential, as the reader is free to dip into whichever topic whets his or her appetite at that particular moment in time, making it a great read for both those with the distraction of small children and/or short attention spans.
So whether you’d like to know the real truth about serving temperature, the importance of water quality, or the often confusing ins, outs, and roundabouts of the sake industry, you can be sure that Gauntner has three or four pages where he gives his personal opinion on the subject in question. In these 27 chapters he concisely dispels and/or debunks many of the most common assumptions about sake, its production, classification, and consumption.
Being a relative neophyte to the pleasures of sake and having my background in wine, I’ll admit that I was immediately drawn towards the more esoteric and rare sakes: the vintage-dated, the unpasturised (namazake), and the super-premium (ginjo). In a few chapters Gauntner explains why these particular styles I chose to favour are perhaps not the right approach to understanding the world of sake as a whole, seeing as they make up such a small proportion of the world’s sake. Back to the drawing board for me then…
The author also isn’t afraid to touch upon a few sacred cows, something that I found most refreshing considering the respect for tradition that the subject matter appears to attach such importance to.
In reading Sake Confidential I certainly learned a fair bit, and the learning process never once felt like a chore. Indeed Gauntner’s prose made me chuckle out loud upon a few occasions. Gauntner’s writing style makes for extremely easy reading, as the chapters are presented in very casual language. I even noticed a few a few “ain’t”s popping up here and there. He obviously knows his sake, but his writings never come over with even an ounce of condescension.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’s been up all night reading this.