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Bottles of Sombai Cambodian infused rice wines

Rice wine is a generic term for an alcoholic beverage fermented from rice, traditionally consumed in East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia. Rice wine is made by the fermentation of rice starch, during which microbes enzymatically convert its starches to sugar.[1] Sake in Japan, Mijiu in China, and Cheongju and Makgeolli in Korea are some of the most notable types of rice wine.

Rice wine typically has an alcohol content of 10–25% ABV, and is typically served warm. One panel of taste testers arrived at 60 °C (140 °F) as an optimum serving temperature.[2] Rice wines are used in East Asian, Southeast Asian and South Asian cuisine at formal dinners and banquets and in cooking.


The production of rice wine has thousands of years of history. In ancient China, rice wine was the primary alcoholic drink. The first known fermented beverage in the world was a wine made from rice and honey about 9,000 years ago in central China.[3] In the Shang Dynasty (1750-1100 BCE), funerary objects routinely featured wine vessels.[4] The production of rice wine in Japan is believed to have started around third century BCE, after the introduction of wet rice cultivation.[5]

As a result of Alexander the Great's expedition to India, the Roman Empire had begun importing rice wine by the first century BCE.[6]


Despite being called a wine, the rice wine's production process has some similarities to that of brewing beer, reflecting its chief ingredient being a grain rather than a fruit. The specific approaches to making rice wine vary by type. Some rice wine (such as the Chinese rice wine, or Mijiu) is made from glutinous rice, while others (such as the Japanese Sake) is made from non-glutinous rice. However, all systems combine rice with some fungal culture in some ways. The fungal culture is called jiuqu in Chinese and koji in Japanese. In the traditional Chinese rice-wine-making approach, the glutinous rice is soaked for several days before being steamed, and subsequently is left to cool in a ceramic vat at near room temperature. Then, the jiuqu is added and mixed with the rice. The primary functions of jiuqu are to supply enzymes to convert starch to sugar and to supply yeast for ethanol production. After a few days, the liquid formed in the ceramic vat is combined with an additional mix of water and fungi to adjust the rice wine's water content.[7]


Name Place of origin Region of origin Description
Agkud Philippines Southeast Asia Fermented rice paste or rice wine of the Manobo people from Bukidnon
Apong India South Asia Indigenous to the Mising tribe, an indigenous Assamese community from the northeastern states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh
Ara Bhutan South Asia Also made with millet, or maize
Beopju Korea East Asia A variety of cheongju
Brem Bali, Indonesia Southeast Asia
Cơm rượu Vietnam Southeast Asia Made from glutinous rice.
Cheongju Korea East Asia Clear; refined
Cholai West Bengal, India South Asia Reddish
Choujiu Xi'an, Shaanxi, China East Asia A milky wine made with glutinous rice
Chuak India South Asia Milky rice wine from Tripura, India
Chhaang Nepal, India, Bhutan South Asia Milky rice wine from Nepal, Northeast India, Bhutan
Dansul Korea East Asia Milky; sweet
Gwaha-ju Korea East Asia Fortified
Hariya India South Asia White; watery
Handia India South Asia White; watery, from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, India
Hanji India South Asia,

Southeast Asia

Native to Chakma community living in India, Myanmar, Bangladesh. It is a fermented wine made from rice and apparently is white in colour. And is majorly consumed during festive season.
Huangjiu China East Asia Fermented, literally "yellow wine" or "yellow liquor", with colors varying from clear to brown or brownish red
Judima India South Asia Fermented, distinguished by the use of a local wild herb called thembra
Lao-Lao Laos Southeast Asia Clear
Lihing Sabah, Malaysian Borneo Southeast Asia Kadazan-Dusun[clarification needed]
Laopani(Xaaj) India South Asia Made from fermented rice; popular in Assam. Concentrated (pale yellow coloured extract) of the same is called Rohi
Lugdi India South Asia Milky rice wine from Himachal Pradesh, India
Makgeolli Korea East Asia Milky
Mijiu China East Asia A clear, sweet liqueur made from fermented glutinous rice
Mirin Japan East Asia Used in cooking
Pangasi Philippines Southeast Asia Rice wines with ginger from the Visayas and Mindanao islands of the Philippines. Sometimes made with job's tears or cassava.[8]
Phú Lộc rice wine Vietnam Southeast Asia The spirit is made from sticky rice fermented with a traditional strain of yeast.
Rượu cần Vietnam Southeast Asia Drunk through long, thin bamboo tubes.
Rượu nếp Vietnam Southeast Asia Mildly alcoholic Vietnamese pudding or wine made from fermented glutinous rice.
Rượu đế Vietnam Southeast Asia Made of either glutinous or non-glutinous rice.
Sake Japan East Asia The term "sake", in Japanese, literally means "alcohol", and the Japanese rice wine usually termed nihonshu (日本酒; "Japanese liquor") in Japan. It is the most widely known type of rice wine in North America because of its ubiquitous appearance in Japanese restaurants.
Sato Northeast Thailand Southeast Asia
Shaoxing Shaoxing, Zhejiang, China East Asia One of the most famous varieties of huangjiu, or traditional Chinese wines
Sra peang Northeastern Cambodia Southeast Asia Cloudy white rice wine indigenous to several ethnic groups in Northeastern Cambodia (Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri).
Sulai India South Asia Rice wine from Assam region
Sonti India South Asia Andhra Pradesh, Telangana
Sunda Kanji India South Asia Rice wine from Tamil Nadu
Tapai Austronesia Southeast Asia
Tapuy Philippines Southeast Asia Also called baya or tapey. Clear rice wine from Banaue and Mountain Province in the Philippines
Tuak Borneo Southeast Asia Dayak
Leiyi, Zam, Khar, Paso and Chathur India South Asia Varieties of wine and beer from Manipur region[9]
Zutho India South Asia Rice wine from Nagaland

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. ^ Xu W, Jiang J, Xu Q, Zhong M. Drinking tastes of Chinese rice wine under different heating temperatures analyzed by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry and tribology tests. J Texture Stud. 2021;52: 124–136.
  3. ^ Borrell, Brendan. "The Origin of Wine". Scientific American. Retrieved 2023-01-10.
  4. ^ Poo, Mu-Chou (1999). "The Use and Abuse of Wine in Ancient China". Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. 42 (2): 123–151. doi:10.1163/1568520991446820. ISSN 0022-4995. JSTOR 3632333.
  5. ^ "Sake | Definition & History | Britannica". Retrieved 2023-01-10.
  6. ^ Kiple, Kenneth F.; Ornelas, Kriemhild Coneè, eds. (2000). The Cambridge World History of Food (PDF). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/chol9780521402149. ISBN 9781139058636.
  7. ^ "Rice Wines - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics". Retrieved 2023-01-11.
  8. ^ Gico, Emma T.; Ybarzabal, Evelyn R. (20 November 2018). "Indigenous Rice Wine Making in Central Panay, Philippines". Central Philippine University. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  9. ^ Luithui, Chonchuirinmayo (August 29, 2014). "Who Killed The Rice Beer?". Kangla Online. Retrieved September 14, 2019.

Further reading