“The new wave Japanese wines are very much in the same idiom as natural wines, being light-bodied and often relatively crisp’ – quoted in the Financial Times by JancisRobinson.
Japanese wine makers are becoming very successful. Wines are now being produced on a par with some of the finest wines world-wide.
Many thanks to Christopher Davenport-Jones for organising this London Branch event, with the specific intention of introducing those of us curious enough to attend, to the novel subject of Japanese wines – a fascinating contrast to other, more traditional – although varied – events that we have held this year.
A delicious supper followed the tasting.
Where indicated, the price is approximately what the wine would cost to buy in Japan (most of the wines we tried are not available for sale in the UK).
Grande Polaire Azuminoikeda Sauvignon Blanc Sapporo Breweries 2016
Clean and flinty with moderate acidity and a good finish. Pleasantly drinkable. A bronze medal winner at the IWSC (International Wine and Spirit) Challenge 2019. £34.
Grande Polaire Azuminoikeda Hokkaido Kerner Sapporo Breweries 2016
Kerner is an aromatic white grape, most commonly grown in Germany. This wine was sweet yet with tart acidity, which sharpened the finish. A bronze medal winner at the IWSC Challenge 2019. £18.
Saint Neige Koshu, Yamanashi 2017
Koshu is a bright pink grape, long cultivated in Japan, but descended from Vitis vinifera. Nearly 40% of Japanese wines are from Koshu, and Yamanashi (at the base of Mount Fuji) is the main growing area for the vine. The grape skins are thick and bitter-tasting, and therefore the wine is often chapitalised to make sweet wine, although now dry wines are being produced. The white wines tend to be delicate and light bodied, with mineral, peach and citrus flavours. £15.
Sadoya Smoke Koshu 2017
We did not greatly enjoy this bottle. Initially the aroma was acidic and reminiscent of cheese, and we found it thin and bitter. However, it was a silver medal winner at the IWSC Challenge 2019. £15.
Manns Lunaris Koshu 2015
This wine was better, showing some citrus and integrated oak.
Chateau Mercian Koshu, Yamanashi 2017
Aged sur lie until bottling. Fresh sharp citrus aromas. Dry, balanced, aromatic, good mid-palate texture and finish. A very nice wine. This is available to buy in the UK at £15-£18.
Château Mercian, Cuvée Ueno Kiiroka Koshu, Yamanashi 2015
Very classy. Delicate lemon aromas, fresh acidic mineral palate with more fruit. A bronze medal winner at the IWSC Challenge 2018. £100.
2016 Suntory Tomi No Oka Chardonnay, Yamanashi 2016
Aged in French oak casks. It was good, although we did not find this exceptional; but perhaps this was because it immediately followed the previous very high quality wine. This was also rather more subtle a Chardonnay than some! £20.
Château Mercian Muscat Bailey A 2014
A pale red translucent wine made from Muscat Bailey A, a red wine grape cultivated in Japan, to suit the climate. The wines tend to be light, fruity and low in tannins. This wine had red fruits on the palate, and was reminiscent of Pinot Noir. Agreeable drinking. £13.
Grande Polaire Azuminoikeda Cabernet Sauvignon Sapporo Breweries 2015
Like a claret. A well-made wine. Dark colour. Cooked fruit flavours on the palate. This is a pleasant, enjoyable wine. Not for laying down. A bronze medal winner at the IWSC Challenge 2019. Approximately £80-£100.
Solaris Komoro Merlot 2015
A quality wine. Bright, lively, raspberry hints of flavour. A bronze medal winner at the IWSC Challenge 2018. £112.
Grande Polaire Azuminoikeda Meritage Sapporo Breweries 2014
An intense deep red colour. Oak notes on the nose, black fruit. Very good. Bronze medal winner at the IWSC Challenge 2019. £80.
Chateau Mars Quatre Rouge, Yamanashi 2015
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Elegant, with integrated tannins, long finish. This is a good example of current production. £45.
What an excellent opportunity for us to discover Japanese wines!