Happy New Year to all Japan Times readers. May 2002 be a year of health and prosperity for all.

And what better way to open the new year in Japan than with a glass of bubbly -- sparkling nihonshu, that is. It really does exist. Although sparkling sake has only been available commercially for a few years, the little that is out there can be rather enjoyable.

Sparkling sake is made the same way as regular sake -- up to a point. Fermentation is halted earlier than is usual, when the alcohol is only around 5 to 10 percent, as opposed to the 18 to 20 percent of normal sake. At this time, there is still plenty of sugar in the mash. The sake is then pressed and bottled. There, in the bottle, a secondary fermentation takes place that produces carbonation.