This entry was originally supposed to be posted sometime in March. We have decided to front-load it for reasons that will soon become obvious.
Prescient is a word that we are rather fond of here at drinkingjapan.org. We pride ourselves on our prescience. In 1988, one of us published an essay on Ed Wood, arguably the worst movie director in the history of cinema. At the time few people had heard of him, but in 1994 that all changed when the Tim Burton bio-pic Ed Wood was released. Suddenly, Woodian (Wooden?) “masterpieces” like Plan 9 from Outer Space were in demand at video shops and a sizable number of people knew of the man and his oeuvre. In 2012, this same person at drinkingjapan.org reprised that bit of cinematic perspicacity when he published an essay on Florence Foster Jenkins, the “devastating diva,” whose off-key and often short-of-breath machine-gun-like staccato belches and cackles plagued opera lovers at both private performances and the very public one she gave at Carnegie Hall shortly before her death. It was published at a time when she was virtually unknown to generations born after her demise. In 2016, the movie Florence Foster Jenkins was released, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, and she was retrieved from the dustbin of history.
Very recently the other “he” at drinkingjapan.org pulled off a similar coup when he purchased a bottle of Funky Chateau at one of our favorite purveyors of wine. On Friday, January 21, 2022, we opened said bottle and wrote the review that appears below. On Saturday, January 22, 2022, the Japan Times ran a half-page article on the winery entitled “Funky Chateau Wines: Straight from the Gospel of Natural Winemaking” by Joji Sakurai.
Before we begin, we would like to make it clear that we knew nothing about this Nagano-based winery at the time of the tasting, except for the information provided on their label. The wine we tasted was Funky Rouge, which could also be called “Funky Merlot,” as that is the sole grape variety used in its production. One does not often encounter a Japanese Merlot, so we were eager to taste this. The nose was yeasty in a funky sort of way; there were some red cherry notes, as well as a little grassiness and a vague sweetness. On the palate, the sweetness and acidity were nearly balanced (little of the former, slightly more of the latter), and there was a degree of spiciness, which added complexity. Red cherry and a hint of red plum were also there, as was the grassiness. The tannins made their presence known, falling somewhere between coarse and soft. We suspect that the winemakers expect some buyers to bottle-age this wine, because the stopper they used is the Diam cork, which according to the manufacturer, “…guarantees perfect consistency not only on the bottling line but also in wine ageing.”1 This wine is neither filtered nor fined, and the abv is 12.5%.
We are not sure whether Funky Rouge has the potential to improve in the bottle. The tannins are there to provide structure, but there does not seem to be enough acidity to ensure further development. What makes Funky Rouge interesting or perhaps even unique appears to be the influence of the yeasts, which add an element of mystery to the experience of drinking it. From what we tasted, it is clear that this is a serious wine made by people who are knowledgeable, competent, and dedicated. From what we have gleaned from the Japan Times article, it would appear that our blind assessment was spot on.