Definition - What does Rice Wine mean?
Rice wine is an alcoholic drink that is made by fermenting rice starch that is converted into sugars. It is made throughout Asia and depending on how it is made, has many names. But many associate rice wine with Japanese Sake. It is used in Asian gastronomy and also for ceremonial purposes.
In China, it is also known as mijiu or Shaoxing.
WineFrog explains Rice Wine
Technically, rice wine is not a wine at all. By definition, a wine is an alcoholic drink that has been made by fermenting the juices of fruit.
Rice "wine" is created using a different process from fruit wines. First, the starch of the rice is converted into sugar by action of microbes. This sugar is then converted into alcohol by yeast.
Some rice wines are made to be enjoyed like any other wine, while other styles are strictly for use in cooking like Mirin, a sweet Japanese rice wine.
In grape wine production, the quality of wine often depends on low fruit yields. It is similar also for rice wine. Wines with higher classifications come from harvests with low yields. They are also classified according to the percentage of the rice grain which remains after milling.
Junmai Daiginjo - Must have a minimum of 50% of the rice grain remaining after milling. The making of this style includes the ingredients; rice, water, yeast and koji (a fungus used to transform starches to sugar.)
Junmai - No minimum milling requirement.
*The following classifications of sake are made using; rice, water, yeast, koji and distilled alcohol.
Daiginjo - Minimum of 50% remaining
Ginjo - Minimum of 60% remaining
Honjozo - Minimum of 70% remaining
Futsu-shu - No minimum milling requirement