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Japanese sake can have the highest craft requirements for production and raw ingredients. To understand the quality classes of sake and its flavor orientation, knowledge of the different quality classes of Japanese sake a great help. In addition to the six important premium classes of sake, there is also the Futsū class.shu.

What is Futsūshu sake?

Sake that is not classified as Tokutei Meishōshu is called "Futsūshu" (普通酒) or "Ippanshu" in Japan. "Futsū" means "normal" and it is not premium sake. In German, it could also be well called table sake or standard sake.

Conversely, this also usually means that if you don't see any of the premium designations (so always includes the words Honjōzō, Junmai, Ginjō, or Daiginjō) on a sake bottle or in a sake menu in a restaurant, then it is automatically Futsūshu, table sake. At your Japanese restaurant, pay attention to whether you usually only get Futsūshu or if you also have a choice from a variety of premium sake. However, this does not mean that every Futsūshu is automatically just bad or inferior.

What distinguishes a Futsūshu?

Futsūshu is not subject to any special regulations. It is often made from "edible rice" instead of sake rice. Futsūshu contains a lot of added distilled alcohol. Some varieties also contain sugar, colorings and other additives.

In Japan, during and after the war, large amounts of brewed alcohol were added to sake to make as much sake as possible with as little rice as possible.

At that time, Junmai sake was mixed with double the amount of low-grade alcohol and the taste was adjusted with sugar, acidifiers and chemical seasonings. This was called "Sanzōshu" (三増酒, German: verdreifachter Sake). The sake made in this way was of course of very low quality, but it was accepted at a time when rice was very scarce.

However, even during the period of rapid economic growth, when there were no longer difficulties in obtaining rice, some sake breweries continued to produce this type of sake with an emphasis on profit.

Nowadays, due to changes in the law, it is not even possible to produce "tripled" sake. But because brewing alcohol is added to Futsūshu, many Japanese still categorically consider Futsūshu bad.

Of course, you also can't expect Futsūshu to taste as high quality as premium sake with wonderful aromas and complex flavor profile.

However, there are many sake breweries that strive to offer consumers good sake at an affordable price. Some breweries even dare to sell high quality sake that meets the Ginjō criteria as Futsūshu. Unfortunately, the selection of Futsūshu outside Japan is not large, so the chances of finding such treasures may be slim.

In any case, Futsūshu is something like table wine for Europeans. It still accounts for about 60 % of the Japanese sake market at present (as of about 2020, with a declining trend over the years). When you drink Futsūshu, you don't have to worry too much about the temperature range or what foods you can pair it with.

Some Japanese prefer to drink Futsūshu for everyday use and premium sake for special occasions.

Sake Tasting at Sushiya Sushi Restaurant Munich
Review: Sake Tasting May 1, 2017

On a rainy, chilly spring day, sushi lovers gathered at our restaurant for a sake tasting of aromatic, high-quality sake.

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