Sake Vs. Wine | How Different Are They?

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You may not be a sake or wine expert, but you may have heard about them. But do you think sake and wine are the same thing? If yes, then you should continue reading this article to burst this misconception bubble. 

Sake Vs. Wine

Sake and wine are alcoholic beverages, which often get confused because sake is also known as rice wine outside its origin.

So, what’s the difference between sake and wine? Sake is a traditional Japanese alcoholic drink made of fermented rice. On the other hand, wine is a more widespread alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes and other fruits.

These two widely popular drinks do share some similarities. However, the difference between the two is no less. Let’s learn more about sake and wine so that you can proudly correct the ones who mistake them to be the same. 

Sake Vs. Wine | Difference Table

Basis Of DifferenceSakeWine
Flavor And TextureMildly sweet, nutty, and fruity aromaFruity and Savory
Alcohol Content 13%–17%5.5% to 23%
UsesDrinking & CookingDrinking & Cooking
Rice, water, yeast, and a mold called KojiJuice of fermented grapes
Shelf Life1 YearIndefinite
Upright, away from sunlightHorizontal positioning of a bottle, temperature-dependent on its variety.

What Is Sake?

Sake Vs. Wine

Sake is a national alcoholic beverage of Japan made from fermented rice. It consists of four ingredients: rice, water, yeast, and a mold called Koji.

Sake is the world’s most complex beverage having different flavors depending on its variety. Sake types are categorized by their rice polish ratio (RPR) and the addition of brewer’s alcohol.

Moreover, this drink can be enjoyed at different temperatures. Unlike most alcohols, sake is also served hot. 

Moreover, sake is a super versatile pairing choice, thanks to the wide range of varietals, brewing, filtering, and aging techniques used to make it.

For a more detailed understanding of sake and its variety, do check out our detailed article on what sake is all about.

What Is Wine?


Wine is also an alcoholic beverage made with the juice of fermented grapes. It is the oldest beverage that dates back to 3000 BC – 2000 BC. The production of wine is said to have begun in Georgia. 

Like sake, wine comes in different varieties, each with its own ideal pairing of foods. You can make your meals a truly memorable experience with a basic understanding of wines. 

The alcohol content in wine ranges wildly from as low as 5.5% to 23% ABV.

Sake Vs. Wine | What’s The Difference?

Sake Vs. Wine

Sake is often thought to taste like dry white wine. However, their production and aging techniques change the overall taste and texture. Let’s check out the differences between sake and wine.

1. Production

One of the key differences that lie between sake and wine is how the two alcoholic beverages are produced. Wine is made using a fermentation process where yeast and sugar are added to high-quality grapes.

The biggest factor in determining the taste of wines is aging time and containers. Most winemakers choose to age their wines in steel, cement, or oak, although terra cotta or clay, glass, and other vessels are also possible options. The type of container used to age wine directly impacts its flavor and texture.

Lastly, aged wines go through a filtration process before they are bottled. 

Making sake is a more complex process than wine. Before the process of fermenting the rice begins, a special variety of rice is used, which is first milled. The ratio of rice left after milling directly impacts the sake quality. However, many more factors contribute to the final taste of sake.

The milled rice is soaked in water. Then a mold named Koji is spread in the rice to release an enzyme that converts starch into sugar. From here on, the process of fermentation begins. 

It’s worth noting that, compared to wine, the fermentation of sake is conducted under a much lower temperature. This helps the Koji to release sugar, which the yeast slowly feeds on.

While wine yeast can only produce 15% ABV, sake yeast releases a higher alcohol content, sometimes above 20% ABV, while making sake, producers can choose to add some extra alcohol to refine the flavors.

Sake then goes through the process of pressing, and aging, before being bottled. 

2. The Alcohol Content

The alcohol content of sake and wine differ significantly due to the process of their making. Sake typically has a higher alcohol content than wine. 

While the alcohol content of wine entirely depends on the fermentation process. The alcohol content of sake depends on the fermentation process and the extra amount added to its making.

3. Taste

The taste of sake and dry white wine is often called to be the same. However, that doesn’t really stand to be true, as both wine and sake come in different varieties. Each variety has a unique taste. 

Broadly speaking, sake is a mildly sweet, clean, and smooth-tasting drink with a well-balanced combination of astringent and savory flavor. It has a nutty and fruity aroma that is less pronounced than wine.

Like any alcoholic beverage, the aftertaste of sake lingers a little. Due to the presence of glutamic acid, sake also has an umami taste.

Wine tasting is an art that takes years of experience. Having said that, it’s hard to describe the way specific wines feel on your tongue. Moreover, each variety of wine has a signature taste. 

The taste of a wine is described based on four broad categories: fruit level, sweetness, body, and finish. The most straightforward approach to categorizing wine flavors is fruity and savory. While fruity wines offer sweet and fruity notes to the wine, savory wines have nutty and spicy flavors.

In comparison to sake, wine has a lingering taste. Describing the flavors of wine is a detailed subject that we should leave for later.

 However, it must be noted that sake and wine do not taste the same. 

4. Aftertaste

The aftertaste of sake and wine are both defining qualities of the two. A desirable characteristic of good-quality’s sake is that it leaves little of an aftertaste. The taste of sake disappears quickly after a sip. 

A sign of good quality wine is the lingering taste; it leaves to enjoy its complex notes, flavor, and texture.

5. Shelf Life

The drinking window of sake and wine is another major differentiating factor. Even if you are not a wine drinker, it is common knowledge that aged wines are considered to be the best. That’s where the saying “aging as fine wine” comes from.

But this doesn’t happen with sake. Sake is not supposed to be left to age like wine. Most sakes should typically be consumed within a year.

6. Food Pairings

Wine pairing is a popular subject amongst food and wine connoisseurs and food enthusiasts. The subject is given a lot of importance because every wine, with its unique taste and quality, is directly impacted by the food we eat with it.

Wine pairing is typically done to match the most prominent element of the dish with the wine. Most wine connoisseurs recommend pairing wine with the sauce of the dish instead of the meat or vegetables.

Furthermore, wine pairings are also done by considering two methods: congruent wine pairings and contrasting wine pairings.

A congruent pairing brings together two similar flavors to create a good balance and amplify the key flavor. A contrasting pairing is when one flavor cuts through the other and balances out the dish’s richness.

For example, red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Malbec are paired with cheese, red meats, chocolate, mushrooms, vegetable stews, and sweets. At the same time, white wine tastes best with poultry, seafood, appetizers, salads, and cheese.

Hailing from Japan, Sake may make you think that it would only pair with sushi. However, just like wine, sake also pairs well with a wide variety of foods.

Sake pairs beautifully with multi-layered flavors of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami Thai food, barbeque, seafood, rice dishes, red meat, poultry, pizza, and cheese. 

So, sake with a moderate, clean aroma and crisp taste pairs perfectly with sushi, sashimi, and other light food. Sweet sake with floral notes is paired with fish, shrimp, and lightly fried dishes. Lastly, rich and dry sake is generally paired with hearty meat dishes.

7. Nutritional Value 

Sake and wine are made using completely different ingredients and come in different varieties. This means their nutritional value also happens to be different. So, finding the nutritional value of sake or wine depends on which variety you have.

But as a general rule, sake has more sugar than wine. This means sake may have more calories than wine. 

8. Serving

A big difference affecting how wine or sake tastes depends on how wine and sake are consumed. The basics of serving wine include picking the right glass and having the wine at the right temperature, which directly impacts how a wine taste.

Wine glasses come in different shapes, designed to hold the aroma, which directly impacts its taste. Moreover, the type of wine glass you give guests for the evening can quickly determine the formality of your event or dinner.

A typical red wine glass has a medium to full-bodied shape. A white wine glass has a light body and a smaller opening.

Whereas champagne or sparkling wines are served in flutes or champagne glasses that allow the bubbles to collect at the top.

As for the temperatures, red wine is best served at slightly below room temperature, from 53 – 69°F. But light red wines like Pinot Noir taste better at cooler temperatures.

White wine tastes great at a temperature ranging between 44 – 57°F. Furthermore, zesty whites are best served on the cool side and oak-aged whites on the warm side. Whereas sparkling wine does great at 38 – 45°F.

When it comes to celebratory wines like high-quality Champagne and sparkling wines, they should be served at white wine temperatures.

Sake can be served at room temperature, chilled, warm or hot. The temperature mostly depends on the type of sake and the drinker’s preferences. 

As for the glassware, sake is typically served in an ochoko, a small ceramic cup.

In bars in Japan, you will also find sake served in a glass placed on a square wooden box, a masu. The glass is filled until it overflows. On festive occasions, sake is also served directly in masu.

Besides this traditional sake serveware, this beverage is now served in wine, shot, rock, and aperitif glasses.

9. Storage

One of the most important aspects of making sure that any alcoholic beverage stays in the best of its health is how it is stored. This factor is especially important for wines, as poor storage can spoil even the greatest wines in the world.

Temperature, light, and humidity levels have a significant impact on the taste of wine. While the same factors affect the health of sake, the positioning of the bottles has the greatest impact on their tastes.

It is imperative to store a bottle of wine horizontally. Whereas keeping sake upright is considered to be important by purists. 

Sake Vs. Wine | Which One Is Healthier?

Alcoholic beverages are only healthy until they are consumed in moderation. Sake is considered great for skin health, preventing cardiac disease and osteoporosis, reducing cancer risk, and preventing overweight. 

Likewise, wine is also considered good for heart health; it is rich in antioxidants, lowers bad cholesterol, and regulates blood sugar.

Sake Vs. Wine | Which One Is Tastier?

The debate about which one tastes better is a matter of personal preference. As explained above, sake and wines come in different varieties, thus offering a wide range of flavors to the palette. 

Moreover, the taste of wine and sake is hugely affected by the type of glass they are served in and the food they are paired with. Therefore, sake and wine are both great in taste. To pick one, you should try out both and all their varieties to choose the best ones. 

Top Recipes To Make Sake

Sure, sake is a great drink to sip on its own. But it also makes for a great ingredient in cocktails and food. Check out some of the best cocktail recipes and dishes that make the best use of sake. 

1. Sakura – Chan 

Sakura - Chan

Inspired by Japan’s signature cherry blossoms, the Sakura-Chan is a cocktail that mixes sake, sakura liqueur, cherry-flavored kirsch, and lemon juice to make a smooth drink that defines the country’s favorite season.

Check out how to make Sakura-Chan here.

2. Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley is a three-ingredient cocktail with extraordinary flavor. Sake, an herbaceous liqueur, and a hibiscus-thyme shrub are combined to make a “full herbal, floral explosion,” says the drink’s creator. 

Check out the recipe for Annie Oakley here and try out this drink for yourself.

3. Federal Ave. Swizzle

Make a refreshing summertime cocktail by combining gin and sake with coconut water, lime and turmeric juices, and a spiced syrup that adds incredible depth to the drink. 

Swizzle all h ingredients together with crushed ice to make the most flavorful drink. See the full recipe here.

4. Kyoto Sour

If you want to see how versatile sake can be, try Kyoto sour. This cocktail starts with grapefruit slices muddled with green Tabasco sauce. These are joined by sake, lemon juice, and agave nectar in the shaker. This cocktail is garnished with an additional grapefruit slice and a mint sprig to make a fresh, spicy, sour cocktail.

Isn’t this cocktail screaming, “I am delicious?” Learn how to make Kyoto Sour here.

5. Sake-Braised Mustard Greens With Sesame

Sake-Braised Mustard Greens With Sesame

Make a great side dish, sake-braised mustard greens with sesame using sake. This recipe calls for mustard greens or kale to be cooked in sesame oil and garlic and braised with sake. This dish can be paired with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals. Find out the recipe for sake-braised mustard greens with sesame here.

6. Sake-and-Black-Sugar-Braised Pulled Pork Sliders

Sake-and-Black-Sugar-Braised Pulled Pork Sliders

Make the most epic sliders by using sake in all its glory. This recipe calls for shredded pork shoulder soaked in flavors of the braising liquid featuring sake, light soy sauce, ginger, hon-dashi, and black sugar, as it becomes tender.

This delicious filling is placed between squishy buns along with quick-pickled daikon. Try out this incredible recipe by following all the instructions here.

Top Recipes To Make Wine

Find some amazing food and cocktail recipes featuring wines to create rich flavors. 

1. Chicken Piccata with Lemon Sauce

Chicken Piccata with Lemon Sauce

Turn your chicken dish to an extraordinary level by making chicken piccata with a lemon sauce featuring white wine. Boneless chicken breasts are breaded in a mixture of egg, wine, flour, cheese, lemon juice, hot sauce, and seasoning. 

They are then browned in a skillet and served with a lemon sauce made with wine and lemon juice. You will be blown away by the flavors this dish offers. Check out the full recipe for chicken piccata with lemon sauce here

2. Parmesan Risotto

Parmesan Risotto

Wine is widely used to pair with Italian cuisine and food. So, make the best use of wine by making rich and creamy parmesan risotto made with white wine, chicken stock, parmesan cheese, onion, and seasonings. Find out the full recipe for parmesan risotto here.

3. Three- Cheese Fondue

Three- Cheese Fondue

Cheese and wine are always a great pairing. Rather than having the two separately, combine the two to make a rich and cheesy fondue to make the perfect party starter. 

Three-cheese fondue is made using dry white wine combined with Emmentaler, Gruyere and Jarlsberg cheeses, cherry brandy, paprika, ground nutmeg, cornstarch, and cayenne pepper. Serve this fondue with French bread baguette, whole pickles, or boiled red potatoes.

Check out the recipe here.

4. Everything’s Coming Up Rosé

Everything's Coming Up Rosé

Make a delectable sangria with unusual ingredients that turn out to be great when combined together. Everything’s coming up rose features chilled dry rosé, Lillet rosé with chilled brewed hibiscus tea, simple syrup, lemon juice, Aperol, and chilled club soda.

This drink is garnished with grapefruit wheel halves, lemon wheels, and sliced strawberries.

5. Stop the Hourglass

Stop the Hourglass

Make a refreshing summer drink that pairs ripe and juicy peaches with cool and refreshing mint tea and Amontillado sherry. The delectable notes of vanilla and toasted hazelnuts from Amontillado sherry add a sweet and pleasant complexity to this frozen sipper. Check out the full recipe here.

Sake Vs. Wine | Which One Is More Versatile?

Sake and wine are both great to use in many ways. However, to choose based on versatility, wines win the case as they are more food and cocktail-friendly. 

If you go on to search for recipes with wine, you will be amazed to see how wines can be used in many ways in cooking, apart from drinking purposes. You can add wines for deglazing, making sauces, marinades, poaching, roasting, braising, steaming, and baking.

Can We Substitute Sake For Wine

Substitutes are an integral part of cooking as more often than not, we tend to need more ingredients while making a recipe. This also holds true for making cocktails. 

So, in case your recipe calls for sake, and you are out of it, you can substitute one for another. The closest substitutes for sake are dry sherry, dry white wine, and dry vermouth.

Sake Vs. Wine | Which One Is Better?

Sake and wine varieties are incredibly unique in their flavors. Moreover, each variety of alcoholic beverages has different qualities. Therefore, comparing such a broad spectrum of flavor options is difficult. 

Moreover, one key aspect to remember about the complex taste of wine or sake is that variations in the taste receptor genes cause everyone to note different flavors during tastings ranging from bitter to sweet and other flavors. 

So, choosing which one is better entirely depends on personal preference. However, with their massive use in the culinary world, wines are better in terms of their versatility. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is sake wine?

No sake is not wine. It is a traditional Japanese drink that is often referred to as rice wine overseas, which leads to confusion.

Is sake strong alcohol?

Sake is just a little stronger than most wines.

Can you get drunk on sake?

Sake can get you drunk if you consume it in adequate amounts.

How much alcohol is in sake?

Many sake varieties have an alcohol content of 13%–17%.

 Is drinking sake healthy?

Sake taken in moderation has health benefits.

 At what temperature is sake served?

Sake is served at room temperature, hot or cold.

Why do Japanese over-pour sake?

The overflowing is an act of kindness and generosity by the host to show their appreciation for your friendship.

Can wine make you drunk?

Wine can make you drunk if consumed in a larger amount.

At what temperature is wine served?

The temperature at which a wine should be served is decided by the variety being served.

 Is wine strong alcohol?

The alcohol content in wine ranges wildly from as low as 5.5% to 23% ABV.

Is wine a healthy drink?

Drinking wine in moderate amounts has many health benefits.

Can we substitute sake with wine?

Yes, sake can be substituted for dry white wine, dry sherry, and dry vermouth.


I hope you enjoyed learning about the difference between wine and sake. If you find this information interesting to read, do share it with your friends and family. 

In case you have any more questions related to this topic, feel free to ask me in the comments section below. 

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