As fall draws to a close, wine lovers eagerly anticipate the release of this season's nouveau wines. Supermarkets in Japan have put up posters to announce the uncorking of Beaujolais Nouveau on November 16. Preceding the French wine, Yamanashi Nouveau made its debut in Japan on November 3.
Originating from Yamanashi Prefecture, the birthplace of Japanese wine, Yamanashi Nouveau is crafted from the indigenous grape varieties Koshu and Muscat Bailey A.
According to the Yamanashi Prefecture Wine Manufacturers' Association, this year's grape harvest received an "excellent" rating — the highest possible. The grapes thrived with an early budding in spring and benefited from the absence of heavy summer rainfall, resulting in stronger flavors. The sugar content was one to two points higher than in previous years across many vineyards in the prefecture.
The impact of the great harvest was felt by wine producer Michiko Suai. She is the brewing manager at Book Road in Taito Ward, an old neighborhood in Tokyo far from Yamanashi.
Suai remarks, "The grapes from this year are especially delicious. It made me all the more determined to create exceptional wine."
Japanese Orange Wine
Turning on the faucet on one of the tanks, she fills a glass with a stream of golden Delaware wine. After a sip, she exclaims, "Delightful. We'll start bottling it right away this afternoon."
But the moment of relief is short-lived as she hurries to attend to the fermenting tank filled with Koshu grapes. "The way we care for, nurture, and sometimes even talk to the grapes is similar to raising a child," says Suai.
Koshu grapes are primarily used to make white wine. But when the seeds and skin are also fermented, as in the production of red wine, the resulting wine has a sunset-like hue. This orange wine, labeled Kamoshi Koshu, has a gentle flavor and is the winery's most popular product. Its fans are eager to try this season's fresh batch.
"It pairs excellently with dishes that use Japanese stock, like hot pot and takoyaki. Since the wine is crafted from grapes nurtured in Japanese soil, it serves as a great accompaniment to everyday meals."
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(Read the related article in Japanese.)
Author: Satomi Sakaki