Well, here we are again—we’re at the end of another year. Time to freefall onto the sofa, rewatch that unforgettable Christmas classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), and contemplate the perils of space exploration. Oh, but what to drink?
Campbell Early is a North American hybrid—Vitis labrusca x Vitis vinifera—that was created back in the 19th century. It’s a black grape that is widely grown in Japan for the table. In Hokkaido, however, there are significant plantings used for the production of wine. We have written about Campbell Early before, so we will not repeat ourselves in this entry.
We opened this bottle of Hakodate Wine’s Campbell Early recently. Although the name of the wine indicates limited distribution, we have a faint recollection of having purchased this at the neighborhood supermarket. Hakodate, where the winery is located, is an attractive city located in southern Hokkaido, fairly close to the northern tip of Honshu. The wine we tasted is deep pink, which might cause some shoppers to mistake it for a rosé. However, the checkbox on the label clearly indicates that it is a red. And, indeed, it is: its tannins are discernible but subdued, refined, and well integrated. Sweetness eclipses acidity, though there is obviously a considerable amount of the latter. The abv is 12%, and the body is medium. But the force majeure here—the conquering Santa, if you will—is the wine’s strawberry notes, both on the nose and on the palate, which are augmented by hints of cherry. The finish is long.
While tasting this, we came to the realization that this wine would make an excellent base for that age-old holiday drink known as mulled, or spiced, wine. One of us wrote about spiced wine in the 11/29/19 issue of Alpha, a publication of The Japan Times. This realization caused us to recap the bottle and experiment the following evening by adding cinnamon in powdered form, a few cloves, a little bit of honey and then heating the wine ever-so-gently. The result? We will answer that with a question. Why buy prepared mulled wine when you can make your own seasoned-to-taste version at home in about the same amount of time that it takes to sing “Hurray for Santa Claus” (the movie’s theme song) a couple of times.
For those of you eager to know how Santa manages to survive a Martian kidnapping and how he interacts with a tot who bears a certain resemblance to Greta T., the Internet Archive link is here: https://archive.org/details/SantaClausConquerstheMartians1964. Before downloading it, please read the disclaimer dealing with public domain status.
Recommendation level (out of five stars):
⭐️⭐️⭐️ (great for mulled wine)
We have written a book. For more information on Japanese beverages, please check it out. You can get it at fine offline and online booksellers in Japan, including Amazon.
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