Wine in Japan

Tokyo is the epicurean’s delight with an incredible selection of international restaurants and excellent wine shops. Japanese wine isn’t very visible, however. During my stay in Tokyo I visited the YaMaYa wine shop in Akasaka. YaMaYa has a very good selection of imported wine, especially French Bordeaux, but only a half dozen bottles of Japanese wine, some of which are quite expensive and by reputation not good value. I did try a Chateau Mercian Niitsuru Chardonnay with seafood pasta and found the wine to be clean and crisp with good varietal character and tasting not all that different from a California unoaked Chardonnay. I did some internet searching to find out more about the wine and the winery and discovered that the Mercian Katsunuma Winery, which produces Niitsuru, is a large international operation that owns Markham Vineyards and Chateau Reysson in Bordeaux and began growing grapes in Japan in 1970. I also found a dated website on the winery that claims that vines are planted at a density of 300 vines to the hectare, producing 15 tons of grapes per hectare. Now that I would like to see! Another website says that to deal with the frequent problem of harvest rains the vineyard now spreads plastic sheeting over the vines at harvest time. Given the claim that 300 vines produce 15 tons of grapes, I’m not sure that’s true, but it sounds interesting.

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