There’s an anniversary coming up soon, and we want to be one of the first sites to publicize it. The year 2023 will mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the creation of Vegemite, that salty spread beloved by those Down Under. We are not being facetious mind you. One of us here at drinkingjapan.org loves the stuff and has dubbed it “the Australian miso.” The two driving forces behind the creation of Vegemite are Dr. Cyril Percy Callister, a chemist, and Fred Walker, an entrepreneur. Both men were Aussies, but as the name “Kraft” on its label suggests, there is a Yankee element involved in the story, as well. It is curious that this spread, which has been embraced by so many Australians, has not garnered many devotees in the U.S. The same might be said of the grape known as “Campbell Early,” “Campbell’s Early,” “Campbell,” or “Island Belle”; take your pick. It’s a Vitis labrusca–Vitis vinifera hybrid that was created by “George W. Campbell, a merchant of Delaware, Ohio, [who] was led by his interest to become a professional nurseryman specializing in grapes, of which he produced thousands of seedlings.”1 Unfortunately, Campbell—the grape, not the man—didn’t cut it in America. According to Robinson et al’s Wine Grapes, it “is now rarely found in the US.”2 However, the same source indicates that it is popular in Asia. Campbell is best known as a table grape, but there are not a few Japanese wineries that are making wine from it. Cave D’Occi, a winery in Niigata, is one of them. (For a review of Cave D’Occi’s hard cider, FROM SCRATCH2020, please see here.)
Cave D’Occi’s Funpy, as the name might suggest, is for casual drinking. It is pale ruby in color, very slightly sparkling, has a light body, and a low abv of 10%. Campbell Early has a distinct cotton-candy aroma that can be a bit off-putting if too concentrated. Funpy, however, is a blend containing Merlot and a German varietal (unspecified), so the candy-floss notes are slightly offset by these other influences. One of us detected acerola notes, as well.
1Pinney, T. “Eastern Viticulture Comes of Age,” A History of Wine in America, Volume 1, (University of California Press, 2007).
2Robinson, J. et al. “Campbell Early,” Wine Grapes (Penguin, 2012).