Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association | JSS

Professional Why Cheese and Charcuterie
Pairs Well with Sake

Sake pairs with a variety of different food such as seafood and salad. One popular pairing is sake with cheese and charcuterie. Despite seeming odd to some people at first, there are multiple reasons why it can be a delicious combination.

Amino Acids and Peptides

Sake, cheese, and ham all contain a variety of amino acids and peptides. These amino acids and peptides, such as glutamic acid, contribute to creating a complex umami-rich taste. When paired, the amino acid profile of the sake adds layers and enhances the profiles of the cheese and ham. This fusion leads to more complex umami and a robust savory flavor.

Aroma Produced by Fermentation

The aroma from fermentation is another common characteristic of sake, cheese, and ham. The yeast and mold in the fermentation process of these items create a similar aroma. This aroma acts as a bridge to bring the flavor of the cheese and ham closer to the sake.

Saltiness Enhances Umami

Saltiness is known to bring out the sweetness and umami from food and drink. This also applies when pairing sake with cheese and ham. The saltiness in cheese and ham enhances the umami and sweetness of sake. At the same time, the sake pleasantly softens the saltiness.

Pairing with Warmed Sake

The beauty of sake is that it can be served at a range of different temperatures making it highly diverse when paired with food. Warm sake pairs especially well with ham. The heat of the warm sake melts the fat and further unlocks the flavor from the ham. Furthermore, when warm food and drink are paired, umami and sweetness become more vivid on the senses. Therefore, warm sake and ham make a truly unique and umami-filled pairing.

Case Study

Pairing Test
with Roasted Pork

Sake Temperature Junmai Aged Sake

The sake overpowers the flavor of the pork. The fat has a grainy texture.

The bitterness of the sake fades while its sweetness becomes distinct. The pork and sake don’t blend well together.


When paired together, the umami of the pork and sake flavor both become milder.

The sweetness of the sake intensifies, bringing out the umami and roasted flavor of the pork.


The flavor of the pork and its fat blend well with sake.

The sweetness of the pork fat and sake match perfectly. The rich caramel, nutty flavors of the aged sake soften.


The umami of the pork enhances while the fattiness fades. The sake also tastes milder.

The flavor of the pork and sake fade. The aged flavor and sweetness of the sake intensify.

Advanced Food Pairings

Professional Guide


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