Today we took a tour into the mountains north of Hiroshima, Japan to visit Miyoshi Winery and taste Japanese wines. Many people make the connection of Sake with Japan. Dispel that assumption right now, because Japan has some really good wines and their wine industry is absolutely booming! We have tasted a bunch of indigenous grape varietals with many more to come, so join me on a Grape EdVenture to Japanese Wines!
The Miyoshi Winery is one of three wineries in the Hiroshima Prefecture and is located several hours South East of Tokyo on the coast; think USA North Carolina to New York in comparison. This winery is my favorite because they offer many amenities to pique my interest. Not only can you tour their wine making facilities on your own time, but, you can enjoy a choice of two different style restaurants, a gift shop that offers wine, local foods, crafts, artwork, and unique wine accessories. Best part though is the unlimited wine tasting. Get this...there are about eight wine barrels in the center of the floor that are all self- serve with no cap on wine tasting! Yes, you read right, there is no cap on the number of refills. The staff does not even question your return for refills and no disapproving attitudes.
There are also many wine regions across Japan such as Aomori, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Hyogo, Ibaraki, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagano, Oita, Okayama, Shimane, Tochigi, Yamanashi, and Yamagata Prefectures. Legend has it that grape-growing in Japan began as early as 718 CE, in Katsunuma, Yamanshi Prefecture. Yet, the first grape culture dates back to the 12th c. Yet, regular wine making began in Japan with the adoption of Western culture during the Meiji Restoration (late 19th c). So, needless to say regarding their relaxing demeanor toward wine enjoying; in Hiroshima there are wine shops sprinkled throughout the city and definitely a fun place to taste different wines because of their liberal attitudes toward wine tastings.
Even though there are mainstream wine grapes grown in these areas such as Cabernet Sauv., Merlot, Chardonnay, etc., obscure grapes such as Pione, Delaware, Muscat of Alexandria, Puchiberudo, and Kyoho just to name a few come from these regions. Pione grapes are a cross between a Kyoho and a Cannon Hole Muscat. The Pione is usually seedless and sometimes compared to a Muscat grape; sweet and juicy.
When I visited one vineyard in the region, it was interesting to find that the Pione grape is grown in the aerial style vs. standard trellising methods. The Pione wine will pair nicely with Japanese cuisine such as spicy sushi, my favorite noodle dish Okonomiyaki (it is a type of noodle pancake) and cheeses such as Camembert and Blue Cheese. What you say? Instead of a bold Chardonnay? Yes, debunk that myth that bold pairs with bold. By contrasting a sweet wine with a very bold and salty blue cheese, it is heaven in your mouth. In addition, Pione grapes are a main ingredient in some Japanese style desserts because of its sweetness.
The other indigenous grape Kyoho is a cross between Campbell and Centennial grape varietals. Kyoho grapes are known as "giant mountain grapes" with blackish-purple, or almost black colors with large seeds. Again, you can pair this wine with Japanese cuisine that includes mild sushi and noodles soup dishes with pork, beef, and chicken. These wines remind me of a Pinot Noir/Burgundy because it is such a versatile light red wine.
O-Tsukimi is an annual event where you take the time out and enjoy viewing the moon. The celebration dates back to the Nara Period 700 AD. If you make it to the Miyoshi Winery make sure you visit the Okuda Genso Sayume Art Museum adjacent to winery. This art museum features a comprehensive display of artwork by the Japanese painters Genso and Sayume Okuda. Or, if you are into fishing, check out Miyoshi City's traditional fishing techniques; fishermen using birds to catch fish instead of fish bait. This practice is called Cormorant fishing; such an entertaining sport to watch.
Please check out their website www.miyoshi-wine.co.jp. Google an internet translation tool because the winery's website is written in Japanese.
The Delong 100 Grape Varietal Challenge encourages all wine enjoyers to expand their wine drinking horizon by seeking out unusual grape varieties. These past few years, I have tasted over 180 grape varieties. After all, there are over thousands of grape varieties world wide. With so many wine grapes, styles of wine, and wineries to explore, wine is an educational adventure. So grab your virtual passport and come along with me on a Grape EdVenture™ around the world.