Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Rugby World Cup Wine: Fare well Japan

Who knew that while Japan is regarded as a massively important market to both Old and New World producers alike, the islands themselves also have a very significant domestic wine industry of their own, including stunningly beautiful vineyards of tall vine hedges and long cordons growing in the shadow of Mount Fuji. 

The Japanese also have their own, specially developed grape variety called Muscat Bailey-A - traditionally used predominantly in the production of sweet wines but increasingly in blended dry reds more akin to traditional French styles. 

The drive towards greater quality has been marked by the introduction of regional certification, equivalent of the AOC and AVA sytems of France and the USA respectively. In 1983, Suntory took over Château Lagrange in Bordeaux and has for the past 25 years been working with Domaines Barons de Rothschild, proprietors of Château Lafite-Rothschild, the culmination of which will be  the first release of their jointly developed red last autumn.

This is significant. When the Japanese decided to make a sports car, which Mazda product planner Bob Hall described as, "a simple, bugs-in-the-teeth, wind-in-the-hair, classically-British sports car" the modern equivalent of the MGB, they came up with the car known as the Miata or MX-5. With over one million sold it is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the best-selling roadster ever.

Look out for the flagship wines from the Tomi no Oka Winery, with names like Tomi, Tomi no Oka and especially Tomi no Uta with its jammy Muscat Bailey-A.

Grace Koshu is a definitive example of Japanese white wine, made from the very pale purple native Japanese Koshu grape cultivated using the traditional Tanazukuri cane pruning system that looks like a beautiful floating carpet of grapes and vines.

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© 2011 John Alexander