IWFS London Branch had a good attendance at its AGM by Zoom this month. We were invited, or perhaps that should be “reminded”, to bring along a bottle of wine to enjoy.
It was a good excuse for me to try a bottle of Chateau Mercian, Koshu Gris de Gris 2018 for £20.00 from my local wine shop (The Good Wine Shop, Teddington). My curiosity was piqued by its novelty as Japanese, 100% from the Koshu grape, and an ‘orange’ wine. My only other experience of Japanese wines had been at an interesting London Branch tasting a year ago.
Chateau Mercian exports several wines into Europe. This wine was a Silver Medal winner in the 2019 International Wine Challenge.
The Koshu grape is uniquely Japanese, its most successful variety, used for 40% of its wines, and grown there for more than 1,000 years. Grapes were not indigenous to Japan, and it was most likely introduced by traders on the Silk Road, the trading route network between East and West, from the 2nd century BCE.
Koshu’s pretty bright pink coloured berries are a slightly deeper colour than Pinot Gris or Gewürztraminer grapes.
The juice has stayed macerating in contact with the skins for three weeks, from which process the wine is known as “orange” wine, or here, “gris de gris”, adding complexity and causing the amber colour. It has spent eight months in oak barrels.
The skin contact also affects the palate, which is medium acidity, dry, clean, fresh and aromatic, with subtle citrus and peach flavours. Koshu wines are typically light-bodied with mineral notes.
Such wine is best served by decanting, and at 12-14 degrees, that is to say warmer than a white wine would normally be served, in order to bring out the aromas and flavours.
I was pleased to try it as an example of Japanese wine (and grape), and can certainly recommend it for others who are interested. However, I would probably not buy another bottle of the wine at this price.