Sake vs. Wine: What Is the Difference? (Explained!)

Sake and wine are two liquors that are often compared to each other. However, for someone who isn’t familiar with these two, the difference may sound confusing. Since sake is often named sake wine (because it’s from rice wine), you may wonder about the difference between them. So, you may ask: What is the difference between sake and wine?

The difference between sake and wine comes in several aspects. Such aspects you should see include the manufacturing process, taste, calories, and even appearance, and that’s what we’ll cover in this article. Of course, we also included other things such as alcohol and sugar content.

Understanding the difference between the two is essential if you want to compare each other. This way, you can weigh down their properties and help you in choosing if you’re torn between these two liquors.

In this article, we’ll cover all the things you should know about the two and compare each one. This way, you can have an idea about these two and see which one you prefer better over the other.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Sake vs. Wine

Is sake the same as wine?

No, sake is not the same as wine. While sake is typically called “sake wine,” it is not the same as wine. The main difference between the two lies in their manufacturing process.

For instance, wine is manufactured by fermentation of sugars found in fruits, most notably grapes. For this reason, it takes longer for wine to process as it needs to age.

On the other hand, sake is prepared like beer, with rice starch transformed into sugars and brewed into liquor. As a result, it doesn’t need to age, so you can make one in lesser time than wine.

What is the difference between sake and wine?

As mentioned earlier, sake and wine come with many differences. Although sake is a type of rice wine, it’s not something you can consider as such. So let’s look at some of the aspects of these spirits that make them different from each other.

Sake vs. wine health

Sake and wine are two of the healthiest liquors you can find. However, it’s hard to tell which one is healthier, as both sake and wine have their own health benefits for their consumers.

For instance, drinking Japanese sake in moderation has certain health advantages. Sake lessens the risk of cancer, aids in the prevention of osteoporosis and diabetes. 

Further, this drink may lessen high blood pressure, moisturize your body and make it smoother by reducing melanin production, making spots the least obvious.

On the other hand, wine contains antioxidants, may improve lifespan, and help defend against heart disease and dangerous irritation. Surprisingly, red wine has more antioxidants than white wine, which is almost comparable to sake.

In short, both liquors can offer health benefits, especially if consumed in moderation.

Sake vs. wine calories

Sake has a higher calorie count compared to wine. However, unlike popular belief, Japanese sake offers a sweeter taste than wine. 

As a result, sake contains more calories than wine. For example, a 100-gram serving of sake includes 103 calories, while the same quantity of wine includes around 83 calories.

For this reason, you’ll find lesser calories in consuming wine than sake. However, you’ll also find Japanese sake sweeter than wine.

Sake vs. wine alcohol content

In most cases, sake has a higher alcohol content than wine. Most brands of wine include 9 to 16% ABV, while pure sake contains around 18 – 20% ABV. 

If your sake is diluted in water, the percentage might be lower, around 15% ABV. However, in most cases, it’s still more alcoholic than wine.

Sake vs. wine sugar content

Wine has a higher sugar content, while sake usually has none. The thing about sake is that it’s made only from rice, which means no sugar is added to it. On the other hand, the fruit where the wine comes from contains natural sugars. Thus, technically, wine has more sugar than sake.

Does sake taste better than wine?

It depends on your preference whether sake tastes better than wine. In general, Japanese sake tastes sweeter than wine. However, wine has natural sugars from the fruit, usually grapes, making it richer in flavor.

Sake can be enjoyed as chilled or warmed, while wine is best enjoyed chilled or at room temperature. Chilled sake tastes like extremely dry white wine, but some varieties have more flavor. The heated sake that you drink in the cold tastes like vodka. 

Some individuals believe sake has a pleasant scent and flavor similar to sherry. However, despite appearances, sake is sweeter than wine.

Can you substitute sake with wine and vice versa?

No, you cannot substitute sake with wine and vice versa. Since the manufacturing process, taste, flavor, and appearance of these two are different, you can’t use one to replace the other.

Sake is a Japanese alcoholic beverage created from fermented rice. Nonetheless, if you want to create a dish that asks for sake, a fortified wine, such as sweet vermouth, would suffice. It’s ideal if you don’t want to go to the shop to get some sake in your local supermarket or Asian store.

How is sake made compared to wine?

Technically, wine is a type of liquor made through fermentation.  Further, it usually comes from the sugars in fruit. Thus, theoretically, you cannot have wine if you have no fruit. 

On the other hand, sake uses a two-step fermentation procedure to break down rice. First, yeast converts rice starch to sugar, which is ultimately turned to alcohol.

Since sake and wine differ in manufacturing, you can understand both by learning how each one is made. First, take a look at the manufacturing process of sake and wine.

Sake manufacturing process

The manufacturing process of sake is similar to a beer, and it’s done through brewing. Here’s an overview of how people make sake. 

Rice is rinsed before being steam-cooked. After that, yeast and koji are added (rice developed with a mold known technically as aspergillus oryzae). 

Then, the entire mixture is left to ferment for four days, with extra rice, koji, and water added in three batches throughout that time. Shikomi is the name given to this fermentation that takes place in a big tank. 

The grade of the rice, the extent to which the koji mold has spread, temperature changes, and other elements vary by Shikomi. This mixture is left to sit for 18 to 32 days before being crushed, strained, and incorporated.

Wine manufacturing process

The manufacturing process of wine is a classic method that includes a long timeline. This process involves the following:

  • Harvesting grapes at the proper time
  • Fermenting must (grape juice) the right time
  • Overseeing and controlling fermentation
  • Preserving the wine for an appropriate amount of time. 

All these things are part of the winemaking process. In short, The wine-making procedure is divided into four stages: grape gathering and crushing, must fermentation, wine maturation, and packaging.

Sake vs. red wine: what is the difference?

Sake and red wine differ in many aspects. Some of these differences include the manufacturing process, taste, calories, and even appearance.

When it comes to the manufacturing process, sake is made through brewing, similar to how a beer is made. On the other hand, red wine is made through fermentation, and it needs years of aging, unlike sake.

The taste and calories also differ between sake and red wine. Since sake is sweeter, it has more calories than wine. Still, both liquors are considered healthy compared to other spirits.

Lastly, the appearance is different from both. Red wine has a dark red color, while sake has a white appearance, like cultured milk.

Sake vs. white wine: what is the difference?

White wine and sake also differ in many ways. However, unlike red wine, white wine is a little bit similar to sake. For this reason, some white wine can be excellent alternatives to sake. Still, let’s look at the overview of their difference.

The length and finish of white wine are everything. But, on the other hand, Sake has a light body, a delicate taste, and a subtle, nuanced flavor. 

It’s also often a little stronger than white wine. However, the strength is deceiving. White wine is often served cold, directly from the container.


In a nutshell, you can find significant distinctions between sake and wine. The production method, flavor, calories, and even look are all factors that make them stand out from each other.

We hope you learned a thing or two about these aspects above. Of course, the best way to see which one is better is to give it a try. In the end, it all boils down to your preference which one is better, is it sake or is it the wine?



Image credits – Canva

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