Rice wine

A bottle of cheongju, a Korean rice wine.

Rice wine, also known as mijiu, is an alcoholic drink made from rice, traditionally consumed in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. 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 civilizations 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]


A bottle of Tapuy, a Philippine rice wine.
Bottles of Sombai (Cambodian infused rice wine / liqueur).

Some types of rice wine are:

  • Apong - An Indian rice wine indigenous to the Mising tribe, from the Northeastern states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Ang Jiu - Chinese red rice wine, popular among the Fujian 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 Fuzhou, 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
  • Cholai - A reddish rice wine from West Bengal, India
  • Choujiu - A milky glutinous rice wine popular in Xi'an, China
  • Gamju - A milky, sweet rice wine from Korea
  • Hariya -A white/watery rice wine from India.
  • Huangjiu - A Chinese fermented rice wine, literally "yellow wine" or "yellow liquor", with colors varying from clear to brown or brownish red.
  • Ju Mai - An Indian local rice alcohol indigenous to the Boro tribe of the Northeastern State of Assam.
  • Kulapo - A reddish rice wine with strong odor and alcohol content from the Philippines
  • Lao-Lao - A clear rice wine from Laos
  • Lihing - Kadazan-Dusun rice wine from Sabah, Malaysian Borneo
  • 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).
  • Makgeolli - a milky traditional rice wine indigenous to Korea.
  • Mijiu - a clear, sweet Chinese rice wine/liqueur made from fermented glutinous rice.
  • Mirin - a Japanese rice wine used in cooking.
  • Pangasi - Rice wine from Mindanao in the Philippines.
  • Chhyang - Tibetan and Sherpa rice wine
  • Rohi - A sweet, white type of rice alcohol, commonly made by the Sonowal Kachari tribe belonging to the Northeastern Indian state of Assam. Mostly consumed during festivities and family gatherings.
  • 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 Japanese restaurants.
  • Sato - A rice wine originating in the Isan region of Thailand
  • Shaoxing - A rice wine from Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, China, probably the best known Chinese rice wine
  • Sombai - Cambodian infused rice wine with sugar cane, fruits and spices still inside the bottle
  • Sonti - Indian rice wine
  • Tapai - Kadazan-Dusun rice wine from Sabah, Malaysian Borneo
  • Tapuy - Clear rice wine from the Mountain Province in the Philippines
  • Thi- Kayan rice wine,served in a clay-pot with a straw to sip (Kayah State, Myanmar).
  • Tuak - Dayak rice wine (Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo); Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo)
  • Xaaz - A Indian local white rice alcohol from the Northeastern state of Assam, predominantly in the rural households of the districts of Upper Assam. Consumed mostly during the harvesting and New Year festival of Bihu in the months of January and April respectively.
  • Yu (Sekmai Yu, Andro Yu, Phayeng Yu and other variants) - A transparent rice wine from Manipur

See also


  1. Huang, H. T. "Science and civilization in China. Volume 6. Biology and biological technology. Part V: fermentations and food science." (2000).
  2. Huang, H. T. "Science and civilization 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

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