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Rice wine

Rice wine, also known as mijiu, is the eastern alcoholic beverage made from rice, originated from China. Unlike European wine, which is made by fermentation of naturally occurring sugars in sweet grapes and other fruit, rice wine is made from the fermentation of rice starch that has been converted to sugars. The process is somewhat similar to the mashing process used in beer and whiskey production but differs in the source of the enzymes that convert starch to sugars. In rice and other cereal wines, microbes are the source of the enzymes whereas beer, ale and whiskey production utilizes the enzymes naturally occurring in sprouted barley.[1]

Strictly speaking, wine is the product of fermenting grape juice. Alcoholic beverages produced by fermenting the starch found in cereal grains like rice are thus not technically wine as such. As they utilize grains, so-called starch or cereal wines such as Japanese sake or Chinese huangjiu could be considered more akin to beer than wine, yet the finished alcoholic beverage is so disparate from beer that this description is very misleading. The organoleptic qualities of a fermented cereal beverage such as rice wine are much more like grape wine and this is often the context used for its description. Rice wine typically has a higher alcohol content, 18%–25% ABV, than grape wine (9%–16%), which in turn has a higher alcohol content than beer (usually 4%–6%). Rice wines are used in Asian gastronomy much the same way as grape wines are used in European cuisine, e.g. at formal dinners and banquets and in cooking. Secondly, rice wines are used in a religious and ceremonial context in a manner that grape wine was used in ancient Greek and Roman civilisations and is still used in the modern Christian eucharist ceremony. Rice wines are also revered in the arts and literature of Asian cultures much the same way grape wine is in European culture. Beer is rarely used in any of the former contexts, so in the eyes of many rice wine is the correct cultural translation for the fermented cereal beverages of Asia.[2]

Rice wine is much used in Chinese cuisine and in other Asian cuisines. A common substitute for it is pale dry sherry.[3]

Origin and spread

Alcoholic beverages fermented from rice were formerly exclusive to East Asian and Southeast Asian countries. Later, knowledge of the distillation process reached India and parts of South Asia through trade.


File:Brao woman making rice wine in a jar.JPG
A woman in Laos makes rice wine.
A bottle of Tapuy, a Philippine rice wine.

Some types of rice wine are:

  • Ang Jiu - Chinese red rice wine, popular among the FooChow Chinese (Malaysia, China). The red color is derived from iron in the red yeast rice, the traditional yeast culture made from wild yeast in the city of Foochow, the capital of Fujian Province, where this style of rice wine originated, and the ancestral origin of many overseas Chinese in the Pacific islands.
  • Ara - Bhutanese rice, millet, or maize wine
  • Brem - Balinese rice wine
  • Cheongju - Korean rice wine
    • Beopju - a variety of cheongju
  • Choujiu - A milky glutinous rice wine popular in Xi'an, China
  • Gamju - A milky, sweet rice wine from Korea
  • Huangjiu - A Chinese fermented rice wine, literally "yellow wine" or "yellow liquor", with colors varying from clear to brown or brownish red.
  • Kulapo - A reddish rice wine with strong odor and alcohol content from the Philippines
  • Lao-Lao - A clear rice wine from Laos
  • Lihing - Kadazan rice wine (Sabah, Malaysian Borneo)
  • Makgeolli - a milky traditional rice wine indigenous to Korea
  • Mijiu - a clear, sweet Chinese rice wine/liqueur made from fermented glutinous rice.
  • Pangasi - Rice wine from Mindanao in the Philippines.
  • Raksi - Tibetan and Nepali rice wine
  • Rượu cần - Vietnamese rice wine drunk through long, thin bamboo tubes
  • Sake - A rice wine from Japan. The most widely known type of Rice wine in North America because of its ubiquitous appearance in sushi restaurants.
  • Sato - A rice wine originating in the Isan region of Thailand
  • Sombai - Cambodian infused rice wine with sugar cane, fruits and spices still inside the bottle
  • Shaoxing - A rice wine from Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, China, probably the best known Chinese rice wine
  • Sonti - Indian rice wine
  • Tapuy - Clear rice wine from the Mountain Province in the Philippines
  • Tapai - Kadazandusun rice wine (Sabah, Malaysian Borneo)
  • Tuak - Dayak rice wine (Kalimantan, Indonesian, Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo)
  • Cholai - A reddish rice wine from West Bengal, India
  • Hariya -A white/watery rice wine of Indian austric tribes.
  • Thi- Kayan rice wine,served in a clay-pot with a straw to sip (Kayah State, Myanmar).
  • Luk Lao - rice wine of the Tai Ahoms of Assam. Which can be preserved for years. It attains red color when aged (around 6 months).
  • Yu (Sekmai Yu, Andro Yu and other variants) - A transparent rice wine from Manipur

See also


  1. ^ Huang, H. T. "Science and civilisation in China. Volume 6. Biology and biological technology. Part V: fermentations and food science." (2000).
  2. ^ Huang, H. T. "Science and civilisation in China. Volume 6. Biology and biological technology. Part V: fermentations and food science." (2000).
  3. ^ "Rice wine recipes", BBC, accessed 31 March 2011.

Further reading