Koshu: The Quest for Japanese Dry Wine

Japanese wine is pretty disgustingly sweet for our western palate and trust me,  I’ve mustered my courage on countless occasions  to find something drinkable.

I visited 3 wineries, one in Miyoshi near my house, one in Shimane Prefecture and one just North of Okayama without success.  3 beautiful wineries, but they only offered a  bunch of sweet stuff that tasted like souped-up grape Kool-Aid.

Japanese wine is overly sweet and seem to please Japanese taste, nothing wrong with this when you consider that Japan produces  exquisite saké and shochu.  One could easily jump to the conclusion that Japan is not a wine-producing country, but there is always something to prove me wrong.

In November, I read an article in the New York Times about the production of Koshu wine and since then I’ve been looking for a bottle. The NYT article pointed me in the direction of Yamanashi Prefecture where a bunch of producers are trying to change the way Japanese wine is made. I was lucky to find a bottle of white Koshu wine at my local liquor store.

I bought a bottle of Rabaiyat Koshu sur Lie 2009 from the Marufuji winery.  Marufuji has been producing wine in Yamanashi since 1890.

The colour was a very light greenish-yellow. The taste was very light and  slightly sweet. The hint of dryness was present.  I am far from a wine specialist, but the wine felt very refreshing like a vinho verde.   This is not a Sancerre or a Soave.   The wine was good enough to make me think this could be a whole new taste specific to Japan and definitely worth seeking. Koshu grapes are native to Japan so it’s only natural to use it to create a wine which could be sold and consume outside of Japan.

My super pragmatic wife liked the wine but told me that there was no reason for her to pay almost 2000 yen to buy a bottle of Japanese wine when she can pay half the price and get a decent bottle of French or Italian wine which she prefers the taste anyway.  She might be partly right, but I think that Yamanashi wine deserve our attention.  It’s a wine that could surprise us in the future.  It’s on my wine radar!

Koshu wine in the NYT

Koshu of Japan

Marufuji Winery

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