I was in Paris last night visiting my friend Barbara, who recently returned from a trip to Japan. We were drinking a delicious bottle of sake that she had brought back with her, and she asked, un-rhetorically, "Why don't people drink more sake?"
Honestly, I was stumped. I naturally have an opinion about the subject—personally I think that people should drink more sake—but putting that aside and looking at it objectively, I really don't know why more people don't drink sake.
It can't be an issue of alcohol. Most sakes are between 15 and 16 percent alcohol, which is only a touch higher than many table wines these days. Is it a perception that it only goes with Japanese food? Sake is exceptionally food-friendly, and it can be argued that it's even more widely versatile at the table than wine is. I suppose the fact that all the labels are written in Japanese can be intimidating, but in the United States, back labels carry a great deal of information printed in English that's enormously helpful to the consumer. (All of you guys who complain that champagne houses don't print enough technical data on the label, check out the back label on a sake bottle sometime.)
Perhaps its simply that sake is unfamiliar. Not only is there alien terminology such as junmai and ginjo, but even the flavors and aromas of sake can often lie outside of the range of typical Western experience. But honestly, if you can say ramen and sashimi, you can say junmai.
I'm curious—do you drink sake? If so, do you drink it with non-Japanese cuisine? Do you share it with friends? If you don't drink sake, is there a reason?