Readers of this blog will need no introduction to Yamanashi Prefecture, its major winemakers and their output. In addition to the international varieties produced therein, there are the “native” ones, like Koshu, whose provenance, strictly speaking, is not Japan. There seems to be an ongoing debate in certain quarters as to whether Japanese producers should favor one over the other in their competition with major wine-producing countries like Chile and Australia. Another debate revolves around the subject of authenticity, a protean concept best left for a lengthier blog entry than this. Suffice it to say that many upmarket consumers today are expecting the product they buy to be authentic. Perhaps this was the impetus behind the Yamanashi Wine Event that we recently attended at Happo-en’s MuSuBu.
The event, which was held over the weekend of September 12-13, featured an interesting selection of Yamanashi wines, which apparently were chosen for their authentic attributes. Four are well worth mentioning here.
It appears as if orange is the new white. Orange, or amber, wine is appearing with increasing frequency on wine lists and supermarket shelves. Orange wine has been “discovered.” Of course, the Georgians have been making it for a considerable length of time (think thousands of years here). But it is certainly good that it is becoming more widely available and appreciated.
What is orange wine? For that we will quote from the Amber Revolution: How the World Learned to Love Orange Wine by Simon J Woolf (highly recommended): “The colour [orange] denotes that grapes…have been macerated with their skins—as if they were red wines.” Such wines are not uniformly orange, however. Woolf goes on to note that the color can range from golden-yellow to ochre, depending on “the grape variety, the nature of the vintage, the time of harvesting, and the winemaking….”
The first wine that made an impression on us was Kamoshi Koshu, an orange wine made from Koshu grapes. Though without a discernable bouquet, it was remarkably refreshing and well balanced. Compared with white Koshu, it had an intense flavor profile. One might even describe it as a “macho Koshu.” The second wine was a traditional Koshu that was bone dry, which we believe was just named “Koshu.” One could easily imagine this wine being paired with the subtlest of dishes, perhaps even raw fugu. The third wine was the polar opposite of the previously mentioned wine. 2017 Muscat Bailey A/Yama-Sauvignon is a red wine, a blend of the two aforementioned grapes. It had a pleasant aroma and a taste that reminded one of us of a wine he had drunk in Russia a number of years ago, which was flinty and pleasantly austere. Readers will find all of these wines worth exploring. All three of the above were from Toushin Youshu (東晨洋酒) also known as Sunriver Winery. The last wine we tried — a sparkling wine made from Ajiron grapes called Pinku no Awa — had a very pleasant floral bouquet. This wine was from Yamanashi Hakko. The bubbles were added using the injection method.
Oh, before we end this, we should tell you how the wines were served. If you have been paying attention to the pictures, you already know—in tea cups! Yes, you read that right. We discovered that this is how wine is traditionally consumed in Yamanashi! Yes, indeed, authenticity was on display at the MuSuBu event.
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