Koshu of Japan hosted its annual London tasting at Ametsa in the Halkin Hotel in February. Blogger and wine importer Mike Turner tasted the varying styles of Koshu, caught up with ‘massive Koshu fan’ Joe Wadsack and found out how the Japanese trade association is targeting the premium on-trade for Japan’s number one grape.
Mercian, Tomi No Oka, Grace, Lumiere and Huggy are just some of the 11 Koshu of Japan wineries that Mike Turner samples.
Everyday’s a school day they reckon, don’t they?
Well there are very few trade tastings I get to go to these days where that’s true for more people than it isn’t.
Look, I’m relatively new to this wine game, so I’m fairly used to walking round with a permanent “aaaahhhh right?!” expression slapped over my face. But recently London welcomed some interesting visitors that had more than muggings here reaching quickly for the notebook and pen…
I know I shouldn’t really start a review about wines like this, but I can’t help it.
What a thoroughly nice bunch of people!
Maybe they’d all been hitting the Yamazaki hard on the plane on the way over? Maybe!
Anyway, stop waffling Turner, move on
Koshu is a normal Vitis Vinifera grape that copes really well with the really tough weather conditions of Japan’s Yamanashi district at the foot of Mount Fuji, just a couple of hours outside of Tokyo.
Now, I’ve not been to Japan in my life before, but luckily one of the attendees (and guest speaker at the Masterclass I thank you very much) was the legend-in-his-own-underpants and all-round good guy, Mr Joe Wadsack. He’s a massive fan of Japan and of Koshu, and reliably informs me that the weather in the wine region can be silly wet and horribly humid, but this thick skinned wonder (the grape, not Wadsack) comes through year after year.
It’s funny, I’m trying to think of another grape where this is true, but this is used as much as a wine grape as it is a table grape. Answers below if you can think of another, but it just goes to highlight what fresh fruit and citrus flavours these little pink jacketed bundles produce.
Of the 11 wineries present there was only a couple of things about Koshu that you could generalise about.
Low alcohol is one. So pretty good for the lunch time crew or any chilli heat fanatics. And, as I mentioned before, the citrus cut of every wine on show was booming.
I was going to go with fresh lemons and grapefruits, but apparently yuzu, the Japanese fruit, is a lot more correct. That’s me told anyway.
Different winemaking styles then come into the mix. For me, my favourites were the plainer styles, stainless steel fermented, inertly kept and bottled fresh as a daisy like those of Grace Wine.
But that’s not to say the barrel-fermented styles of Tomi No Oka, and the sur-lie style of Mercian didn’t get me smiling. The bubbles stands of Huggy (tank method) and Lumière (traditional method) didn’t let up in visitors all day.
I guess a quick word about the Koshu of Japan people would be in order too
Koshu of Japan are a marketing collective of wineries that are trying to get the word out to the world that this wine is worth trying.
Their biggest issue is that for rest-of-the-world standards, production volumes are very low. If Asda-Walmart came a-knockin’ it’d probably take all of the nearly 80 wineries out in one single go.
But that has its advantages too. Niche is a good thing used right.
But in being niche you need things done right.
One of Koshu of Japan’s biggest jobs is to train up the on-trade.
That’s where most of the wine is being targeted after all. These are undoubtedly wines aimed for Japanese food, from sashimi to tempura, from donburi to teriyaki. But obviously punters might need a little nudge in the right direction from sommeliers.
Anyone running a serious restaurant with these kinds of foods to go needs to get in touch with Koshu of Japan and sort themselves out a tasting. Delicious as anything and a liquid conversation starter.