We happily tried eight white and five red Japanese wines at a novel wine tasting event organised and led by Christopher Davenport-Jones this month. The wines were from a variety of grapes and from different producers. Most of them are not available for us to buy in the UK.
We learned that Japanese wine producers are making a wide range of wines. They are becoming very successful and winning medals at international wine competitions.
Grapevines were first planted in Japan over 1,000 years ago. Nowadays many traditional grapes such as Chardonnay and Merlot are used, and also grapes that the Japanese have cultivated themselves, especially Muscat Bailey A and Koshu, which we tasted at this evening.
Muscat Bailey A is Japan’s most popular red wine grape, first bred in the early 20th century to resist disease, mildew and rot, and cope with the climate. The skins are deep pink, used to make light red wines.
Nearly 40% of Japanese wines are from Koshu, a bright pink grape, long cultivated in Japan, but descended from Vitis vinifera. Its skins are thick and bitter-tasting. The white wines tend to be delicate and light bodied, with mineral, peach and citrus flavours. They go well with Anglo-Japanese cooking.
An excellent opportunity for us to discover Japanese wines – and no doubt we shall be seeing more imports in years to come!]