In this entry we turn our attention to a wine made from a grape varietal that is closely associated with Japan and close to our hearts as well—Muscat Bailey A. The wine under review today was produced in Gifu Prefecture with grapes sourced from Yamanashi Prefecture. Though not known for its viticulture, Gifu is famous for, among other things, its cormorant fishing. The cormorant is an aquatic bird that is used by the fishermen of Gifu to catch ayu (sweetfish). This nocturnal activity involves a specially designed boat, illumination to attract the fish, and the cooperation of a number of cormorants who dive and scoop up a number of those fish in their bills but are prevented from swallowing them by a ring placed around their necks. The fishermen later retrieve the ayu from the cormorants’ throats. For some reason, this brings to mind e.e. cummings’ poem “when serpents bargain,” whose opening lines are “when serpents bargain for the right to squirm and the sun strikes to gain a living wage….” Fortunately, the cormorants are not engaged in collective bargaining: they’re just doing what comes naturally, which is exactly what this winemaker is doing.
Nagara Natural Winery‘s (長良天然ワイン酒造) Muscat Bailey A is done naturally, and what a wonderful thing that is. Initially, we tasted this wine well chilled and found it to have an aroma of medium intensity with herbaceous and cherry notes, with a hint of strawberry. As the wine gradually warmed and neared room temperature, the aroma became more intense, with the cherry and strawberry notes now prominently displayed. On the palate, it was off-dry with heady, dare we say “masculine,” tannins that lingered long and luxuriously. We found it to be a good pairing with dumplings (gyoza).
Nagara Natural Winery’s Muscat Bailey A is made with wild yeasts domiciled at the winery. It contains no preservatives, no anti-oxidants and is unfiltered. This gift from Gifu is inexpensive to boot and available for approximately 1,500 yen.