Grace Wine, tasting some of the top wines of Yamanashi, Japan, with winemaker Ayana Misawa
Grace is one of the leading wineries in the Yamanashi region of Japan. They have two wineries and two vineyard sites – one in Katsunuma and one in Akeno (this is quite close to Nagano). I met with Ayana Misawa to taste the wines, and then later tasted some more wines in London.
Ayana studied for three years in Bordeaux, and then was an exchange student in Stellenbosch University. She even did a vintage with Duncan Savage. Other vintage experience has been with Errazuriz in Chile, Catena in Argentina and Mountford in New Zealand.
She returned to Japan in 2007 and started working with her family’s winery Grace. She’s recently taken over from her father. They have 20 hectares of vineyards and buy-in some grapes too, with production of 150 000 bottles a year.
The family have long been dedicated to Koshu, a grape variety unique to Japan that has been grown here for 1000 years. It’s a pale-pink, large berried variety that has some wild Asian vine heritage as well as vinifera, and is therefore a hybrid. It’s Ayana’s favourite grape variety: ‘I grew up with Koshu,’ she says.
She also loves Cabernet Franc, which they use to make a meritage, but they also make a private varietal version in magnum.
For Koshu, she says that yield definitely makes a difference. They use a VSP with double guyot in Akena, and aim for 40 hl/ha yields. For pergola, you can end up with 100 hl/ha on low flat areas and 70 hl/ha at high elevations.
‘Maximizing photosynthesis is important in Japan,’ she says, ‘which has relatively few sunshine hours.’ Most people chaptalize Koshu because the sugars can be low.’
Grace make 6 different Koshu wines. ‘If you pick Koshu later you get a nashi pear character,’ she says. ‘I think it is more interesting for me.’
‘I love mountains; I love vineyards; I’m very happy in Yamanashi.’
Grace Blanc de Blancs 2011 Yamanashi, Japan
This comes from 700 m altitude in Akeno, with volcanic soils. It’s Chardonnay, traditional method, disgorged in 2015, 4 g/litre dosage. Very fresh and fine with lovely delicate citrus fruit. Very fresh with good acidity, showing nice precision and delicacy, good tension and some subtle toastiness. Lovely mouthfeel. 93/100
Grace Private Reserve Koshu 2019 Yamanashi, Japan
12% alcohol. This is from Katsunuma village. Taut and fresh with a mineral nose showing bright citrus fruit. The palate has lovely textuere notes of tinned pear, lemons and some refined mineral characteristics. Lovely purity and elegance: a delicate wine but showing refinement. 92/100
Grace Private Reserve Koshu 2020 Yamanashi, Japan
12% alcohol. Some floral hints here, and a touch of canteloup melon on the citrussy nose. The palate is bright, textural and nicely layered with some sweet pear and citrus, and nice acidity. This wine has freshness and fruitiness as well as texture. 91/100
Grace Private Reserve Hishiyama Koshu 2019 Yamanashi, Japan
11.5% alcohol. Altitude is a factor here: it’s from a vineyard at 500 m. This has a lovely floral delicacy to it, with grapefruit and a touch of lime. Quite stony and mineral with nice precision to the fruit. Delicate, pure and intriguing, this is elegant and stony. 92/100
Grace Private Reserve Hishiyama Koshu 2020 Yamanashi, Japan
This is bright and linear with citrus and pear fruit, as well as a hint of melon. There’s a lovely texture on the palate with brightness and good acidity, and also a stony roundness. Brings together depth and vitality. 93/100
Grace Cuvée Misawa Akeno Koshu 2015 Yamanashi, Japan
This is ‘Koshu Dury’: lovely matchstick reduction on the nose. Very fine. Concentrated palate with good acidity but also some pear/apple/melon depth. Lovely flavours but also delicacy, showing precision and minerality. Has an expanding acid finish. 94/100
Grace Cabernet Franc 2015 Yamanashi, Japan
Double manual sorting then aged for 18 months in French oak, 15% new. There’s a bit of lift on the nose which shows lovely aromatics and some red cherry and blackcurrant fruit, together with spice and smoke hints. The palate is beautifully poised with bright red fruits, showing some fruit sweetness but also good acid structure. Has a savoury, grainy edge to the palate and shows superb balance. In a beautiful place right now. 93/100
UK agent: Hallgarten Novum
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