Sake 101 – How to Store Sake and When It Expires

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How to Store Sake

Wonder how you should treat a sake product you bought or received? Lets’ get down to the point: sake should be stored in a cool, dark location and consumed as soon as possible. In general sake’s shelf life is 6 months to a year. Keep that in mind and let’s learn a little further detail now.

Storage Before Opening

Brewed without preservatives such as sulfites, sake is a delicate alcoholic beverage which is sensitive to light (ultraviolet rays), heat and swing. This is why most sake products are contained in a dark-colored, thick glass bottle.

It is recommended to keep unopened sake in a dark location under 50F (10C). Nama zake (unpasteurized sake) should be refrigerated all the time. Sake should be consumed while it’s young, generally 6 months to a year. You can store nama zake for up to a month and nigori zake (unfiltered sake) for up to two months.

Storage After Opening

Once a bottled is opened, sake is exposed to air and oxidation begins. This causes change in flavor, aroma and quality so it is best to finish the bottle sooner.

Opened sake should be refrigerated and can be stored for up to a month. Nama zake should be consumed within 2 days and nigori zake within a week after opening. Many products indicate the ideal storage temperature on the label, which you should follow accordingly.

No Bottling Date Listed?

Here is the tricky part of shelf life. Some of you might have wondered “How can I find out when the shelf life starts?” Indeed that’s a really good question.

In Japan, breweries are required to list a bottling date on every product label, so it is generally assumed that shelf life begins with the bottling date. However the rule does not necessarily apply to other countries. In the United States, no bottling date or expiry is required on sake labels, which creates some trouble finding out the age of sake.

sake bottling date in Japanese label
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When buying a sake product imported from Japan with its original label on, you may find sets of numbers like those shown in the picture. With the first set representing a year, second a month and the last a day, this indicates the product was bottled on Dec. 27, 2016. Some products only show the year and the month, no date. Others use the Japanese year, (see detail) not A.D., so you may see numbers like 28 (for 2016) or 29 (for 2017) instead.

On the contrary, you are unlikely to find these numbers on a label designed for export to the U.S. or locally brewed sake. Your retailer may be able to identify the bottling date by tracking a lot number or distribution route, but it wouldn’t be too easy.

Sake Has No Expiry

Most sake should be consumed as soon as possible for its best performance. Although sake does age, it has no expiry or vintage year*. You can still drink sake after the suggested shelf life, up to a few years.

*A new type of sake called koshu (aged sake) has been emerging in recent years. Those products exceptionally feature a vintage year.

Sake 101 Series:
*What is Sake and How to Drink it
*Types and Varieties of Sake
*How to Select Sake
*How to Store Sake and When it Expires
*Sake Cocktails and Beyond (coming soon)
*Ways to Master Sake (coming soon)

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