The Japanese have cultivated vines for around 1,000 years and have had a wine trade there since the mid 19th Century. However, the idea of Japanese wine is still fairly new to UK drinkers. Since 2004 when regulations in the country were loosened, allowing more boutique wineries to be established, Japanese wine is found more often across Europe. In the last 10 years especially, the country has proven its diversity and quality on the export market.

In February 2019, I attended JFOODO’s Japanese wine tasting in Bristol. I wrote a lengthy piece about Japanese wines here. As that piece includes tasting notes on the wines I tried during Sarah Abbott MW’s masterclass, I haven’t included them here.

White Wines

2017, Fermier El Mar Albarino – One of the strangest Albarinos I’ve tried, made in Niigata, this wine has a softer citrus nose of orange and salt, reminding me a little of sherry and light brandy at the same time. It’s a very textured, very unusual wine. The acidity is high and cuts through the fruit, but I would recommend anyone give it a try. ★★★☆☆

2016, Hokkaido Kitajima Vineyard No7 Kerner – I’ve liked Kerner ever since tasting the English style around four years’ ago. This is very different to the light style I was anticipating. Grown in Hokkaido on a single vineyard, this wine is full of stone fruits. It’s mouth-watering but the fruit is almost threatened by an incredibly pronounced nose of geraniums. This is one for anyone who loves very floral style wines. ★★★☆☆

2016, Katsunama Jozo Arugabranca Pipa – From Yamanashi, this white wine tastes of orange peel and grapefruit with notes of sweet coconut cream. Very unique and endlessly interesting, albeit lacking a little in acidity. Nevertheless it’s one of my favourite ‘orange style’ wines I’ve tried in a while. ★★★★☆

2017, Lumiere Prestige Class Orange – On the nose I wasn’t sure as it smells like oxidised Scrumpy cider (I’m not a cider fan, sorry Somerset), but on the palate it’s wonderfully complex wih notes of dried apricot, pear, orange and a peppery, slightly saline finish. It’s light but vastly enjoyable. Made from 100% Koshu in Yamanashi. ★★★★☆

2017, Manns Wine Solaris Shinshu Chardonnay Tarujikomi – The only white wine I from Nagano I really enjoyed at this tasting (to be fair there were only two). This is full of lovely fruit with good intensity. Some slightly candied apple notes but balanced by notes of lime and a saline finish. ★★★☆☆

2016, Mercian Iwade Koshu Cuvee Ueno – Mellow with low acidity and lots of quite juicy green apple. Reminds me of a young dry Riesling (if you imagine the acidity had been taken from it). Probably a very gluggable summer wine. Fruit was again grown in Yamanashi. ★★★☆☆

2016, Mercian Koshu Kiiroka – Yamanashi white wine. Fresh melon nose with delicate grapefruit notes. The texture is creamy and there’s some notes of smoked wood. Very interesting style. ★★★★☆

2016, MGVs Winery K234 Ichinomiyacho Utsugida Koshu – Wow. An intensely floral nose with wood apple, a hint of bitter grapefruit and a soft, very refreshing finish. Grown in Yamanashi by the super talented Hiroshi Matsuzaka. ★★★★☆

Red Wines

2015, Mercian Mariko Omnis – Bordeaux blend that reminds me of premium Merlot like Pomerol. Rich, oaky notes support a palate brimming with plum and plum skin-like tannin. A bit too big and bold for me (maybe too young), but would please anyone looking for a big gutsy red and a cheeseboard. ★★★☆☆