Japanese wine … yes, by “wine” I mean fermented grape juice. Who knew? Not me until very recently when I attended the fourth annual Koshu of Japan UK Trade and Press Tasting late last month at the Westbury Hotel.
Koshu is a pink-skinned grape variety that’s been grown in Japan since the 8th century but only used to make since the late 1800s. The grape is found mainly in Yamanashi Prefecture – about 100 miles from greater Tokyo. Yamanashi climate is one of extreme hot and cold with long sunny summer days along with well-drained volcanic soils adding up to a well suited terroir for making wine.
I enjoyed tasting all the wines from the dozen or so at the tasting with a few of them making an especially delicious impression. The best of these subtle and extremely delicate wines reminded me of a crisp and aromatic Alberino. So, as you’d hope would be the case with Japanese drink, these wines pair swimmingly with seafood and sushi. To be sure, I’ll be on the lookout for Koshu when dining and food shopping around London, and I’ve added visiting Yamanashi to my ever growing yet another reason to return to Japan checklist.
The tastiest wine I sampled during the event – and my choice for March’s WOTM – was the pale, juicy and citrus-toned Soryu Koshu 2010. As with all Koshu wines, Soryu is low in alcohol (only about 11%). It’s a clean and easy drinking refresher with a bit of minerality and a slightly nutty finish that I would be happy to sip on its own or preferably alongside a plate of sashimi or prawn tempura. I tried the 2011 and 2012 Soryu as well. Both were very pleasant and promised lip smacking return if you can hold onto them for a few years.
Good luck finding Soryu or any Japanese wines in the UK. But my understanding from talking to folks at the tasting is that these wines are becoming more and more accessible outside Japan. I’ve also heard that Umu restaurant here in London (Bruton Street, W1J 6LX) has noteworthy selection. If you hear of anywhere else, please drop me a line!
Find out more about Koshu wines at koshuofjapan.com.