Reading this announcement
I realised that the ongoing and slow-motion horror in Japan which has the world shocked and grieving for the millions affected, has even filtered through to Japan’s small winery business hundreds of miles to the south of Tokyo and our thoughts and prayers in the greater wine community are with them too.
Japan has a small but alluring wine growing tradition with around a dozen significant winery operations. Suntoy is the largest and oldest, its winery is called : Tomi no Oka Winery and is located in the Yamanashi Prefecture, this is about 150km south of Tokyo.
They grow a range of international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling and Chardonnay as well as a local grape varieties like Koshu. Koshu is an ancient grape and related to the main European Vistis Vinfera. The speculation is that it may have been brought to Japan via the Silk Road centuries ago.
Japan has the one main problem with vineyards, huge humidity leading to rotting in sensitive grapes.
However the Yamanashi Prefecture, a green rolling hillscape with good wind movement is one of Japan’s best chances for top quality vineyards, it is already the fruit larder of japan, so grapes have prospered.
This is not something new and fad like either, the Tomi no Oka vineyards were planted in the 1890s and have been producing wine since then, though wine made with International varieties stems from the 1950s and the breakthrough into world recognition really did not arrive until the 1980s.
I have tasted Japanese wines very infrequently. The reds reminded me of New Zealand red wines from about 20 years ago, quite correct, quite soft and light. The whites were remarkably tart and to my mind have the most potential.
There is great potential for Japanese fine wine, look how New Zealand was transformed in 20 years, but for now all we can do is express our solidarity and hope.