In Nagano, Japan: Inishienosato Budoshu

Next stop was the Inishienosato Budoshu winery in Shiojiri City. The rules here allow small wineries of 2000 litres. Normally the minimum size for a winery is usually 6000 litres/8000 bottles but if the local city government applies for permission they can certify smaller wineries. Nagano prefecture has 10 cities that have allowed this now.

Masahiro Inagaki also owns the Brasserie Vin, as well as this small winery. In 2005 he met Akito Kido and drunk his wines (he makes the Kido wines; it was one of the first wineries I visited in Nagano). Masahiro was so impressed, and came away surprised by the quality of the wines it was possible to make in Shiojiri. So in 2006 he planted 0.1 hectares of Pinot Noir. At the time there was where you could drink Shiojiri wines, so he opened a bistro offering local wines.

In 2013 he petitioned the city government to get permission for small wineries, and when they said yes he planted more vines. He’s now got 0.7 hectares of Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Kerner, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Niagara. He buys in some Muscat Bailey A. In all, production is 4600-5000 bottles a year.

The Shiojiri city prepared a series of seminars for people who were interested in winemaking, held at the university. He studied there, and he also got some experience working with Kido, and also Votano Wines. He’s still running the Brasserie Vin, but just does dinner service so he can spend the day working in the vineyard.

The winemaking is slowly moving in a more natural direction. In 2018 he stopped using cultured yeasts, and reduced SO2 to 30 ppm at bottling.  


Extra Dry Niagara 2019 Nagano, Japan
Niagara is a major variety in the Shiojiri area. Picked early to reduce the foxiness of Niagara. Sweet jellyish nose with some bright citrus. Bone dry on the palate with high acidity and a slight bitterness, showing pure, juicy, jellyish character. This is nice and pure with lovely fruit, although the acidity is pretty bracing. 86/100

Inishienosato Budoshu Niagara Skin Contact 2019 Nagano, Japan (barrel sample)
Skin ferment 12 days. Some grapey, jellyish fruit characters but also a bit of structure, with a nice spicy, slightly savoury edge. Very pretty and expressive with nice acidity, showing a bit of Niagara character but also a bit of structure. Nice personality. 88/100

Inishienosato Budoshu Merlot Blanc de Noir 2019 Nagano, Japan
Sometimes the clusters have their shoulders removed and secondary fruit is removed. This is a white wine made from these. Juicy and tart with lively acidity. There are some green notes and the acidity is really high. Unbalanced. 80/100

Inishienosato Budoshu Chardonnay 2018 Nagano, Japan
100% new oak for 8 months. This has nice pear and white peach fruit, but there’s a lot of oak here: toffee, caramel and vanilla notes add a sweet sheen to the palate. It’s very attractive but quite oak-dominated. 85/100

Inishienosato Budoshu Rosé 2019 Nagano, Japan
Muscat Bailey A. 20 hours maceration has given this an attractive pale pink colour. Juicy and fresh with a hint of cream as well as strawberry and citrus flavours. Dry with nice fruit and good acidity. Stony finish: lots of appeal here. 88/100

Inishienosato Budoshu Pinot Noir 2017 Nagano, Japan
850 m altitude vines. 100% destemmed, fermented for two weeks, then to barrel (70% new). Nice vibrant colour. This has fresh, pure redcurrant and red cherry fruit with slight hint of beetroot and good acidity. Lean and tart, but very attractive and well made. Has swallowed the new oak and shows nice purity and focus. 89/100

Inishienosato Budoshu Merlot 2017 Nagano, Japan
92% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc. 100% new oak and a demijohn. This is supple, fresh and juicy with bright black cherries and blackberries and some fine spiciness. Lovely fresh, sweet fruit here with nice brightness, and just a hint of chocolate and roast coffee in the mix from the oak. Pure and balanced. 91/100

Inishienosato Budoshu Merlot 2018 Nagano, Japan
90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc. 30% new oak. Gravelly, dense and structured with good concentration and rich but fresh blackcurrant fruit with some spicy structure. Lovely acidity and good structure, and this is really compelling with its dense ripe, balanced fruit. Quite serious. 93/100