A recent chat with Riedel Spiegelau Nachtmann Japan indicates both the pros and cons of drinking sake from a wineglass and with traditional sake ware.
It is commonly understood that different glassware is used for different types of wine, but the value of applying this to sake is less well understood. There are two big differences between wine glasses and sake ware for sampling sake.
First of all, a wine glass makes it easier to detect aroma. The round form of the wine glass holds the aroma and releases it in a narrower aperture, whereas the shape of ochoko sake ware is wide with no capacity to hold the aroma.
Secondly, when drinking sake with a wine glass, the stem needs to be angled and the chin raised. When the stem is angled in this way, the sake travels along the inside of the glass and gently drops from the tip of the tongue to the end because of the posture of drinker and the location of the glass, giving the sake a smooth, fresh, sharp taste. Using a wine glass can therefore be beneficial when sampling sake in the Ginjo category.
When served in ochoko, sake is often filled to 80% of the ochoko volume so when drinking from ochoko, the chin remains in place or can even be lowered. Because of this posture, drops of sake do not go the tip of the tongue, but instead strike the middle, spreading over the tongue to the end. The liquid is immediately warmed slightly. Both warmed sake and the less gentle method of consumption gives the sake more body, umami and complexity. For this reason, Junmai(see 8categories), Yamahai or even Kimoto style sake are best appreciated using ochoko.
Having tried both glassware and ochoko for a variety of types of sake, there are very clear benefits of breaking with tradition.