When you think of wine growing regions, Japan isn’t the first place you would think of. While it’s true that many, if not most countries, are growing grapes, but is the quality of the wine any good? Recently I had the opportunity to put wines from Japan to the test.
First of all, there have been active wineries in Japan since 1875 and many have been passed through the family, in as many as four generations. The climate in Japan tends to be warm and very humid, with high rainfall which can make grape growing very challenging. After experimenting with North American grape varieties in the early days, the Japanese discovered some of their own varieties that do very well in their climate.
The Koshu grape variety is considered the star in the white category. This grape truly reminds me of Riesling with its green apple, mineral and floral notes with high acidity on the finish. I can see where this wine would be an excellent match with wasabi. Two of my favourites were the 2006 Rubaiyat Koshu Sur Lie and the 2006 Grace Gris De Koshu. Some of the other whites I tasted also reminded me of Chenin Blanc showing hints of honeysuckle, minerality and really high acid. Overall, I was quite impressed with a few whites and felt that they were wines that were not only food-friendly, but are great just on their own.