At the end of each Nihonshu column, a recommended sake is introduced to readers. Along with the name and grade, three "vital statistics" are also given. These numbers -- the nihonshu-do, the acidity and the seimai-buai -- are supposed to give a clue as to how the sake might taste.

There may be more than a few readers who do not know or recall what these numbers refer to, and why they may be significant. Here is a quick review, followed by a surprising departure from the past.

The nihonshu-do is an indication of the likely sweetness or dryness of a sake. Although theoretically open-ended, for most sake today the number sits between -3 and +12. The higher the number, the drier the sake will taste, with neutral falling around +3. Chemically, the nihonshu-do measures the density of the sake in comparison to pure water.