Building A Sake Collection – You need not be a millionaire!
I am often asked what would be the best way to start a sake cellar or collection. Firstly and most importantly sell all of your wine today – right now! And if you don't have any wine or a wine cellar clean out a closet. In any case prepare the location for storage first. This may determine if you even want to start holding some sake for a period of time.
The best way to keep sake is by refrigeration. But that is not the only way! The two main points are even temperature and limited light. If you can keep your sake at a constant temperature that is half of the battle. For example I keep sake in my basement/garage in a really cold fridge, but the bottles that don't fit sit out where it is cooler than the house. BUT the garage door going up and down is not the best to maintain a constant temperature. Likewise light is important too, as you do not want natural light hitting your product. And it is wise to limit the florescent light. Thus those of you without a wine cellar I say pick a closet that doesn't have a heat vent, and put in a small rack.
How would I go about stocking my collection? Firstly I would store my sakes by bottling date and not milling rates i.e. Junmai, Ginjo, and Dai Ginjo. If you stored by category then you would forget the "perishability" factor. Sake is perishable. Technically it is not meant to be stored for a long period of time. Many brewers recommend that you consume their sakes 6-18 months after the bottling date. Therefore create "Zones" within your rack – Zone 1 – Zone 2 – Zone 3 – in terms of bottling dates. In this case, Zone 1 would be your oldest sakes and should be the ones consumed first. (Just think in terms of those horribly cheap airlines that board you like cattle in Zones) For example you have sakes in Zone 2 that are getting to be over 12 months old. You would want to move them to Zone 1 to remind you to drink them sooner rather than later. There is the whole issue of Koshu or aged sakes, but I will not touch on that here in respect to drinking sake as the Tojis (master brewers) would want you to drink them.
I would then visit or call True Sake and order the following to start my collection. I would buy four bottles each of three different sakes within each of the three major categories. In other words I would buy 4 bottles of three different Junmai sakes, four bottles of three different Ginjo sakes, and four bottles of three different Dai Ginjos. Why four? The first would be for personal tasting. The next two would be for a potential party or dinner pairing, and the fourth bottle would be for a gift. The result would be a 36-bottle cellar/closet that unlike True Sake is always open for business.
And besides how cool is to say, "Wanna come over and check out my sake collection?"