Exploring Japanese wine (4) a dinner with amazing wines at Shimanouchi Fujimaru Winery

Website: www.papilles.net

This was a beautiful evening at Fujimaru Winery, which is a restaurant and urban winery in Osaka. This was the first urban winery in Japan, founded by Tomofumi Fujimaru (pictured above) a decade ago. He started growing grapes 13 years ago, and his vineyard is 40 minutes’ drive from the city, near the Katashimo Winery. For the first three years he made the wine there, and then moved here to the current site in town. He has 2.5 hectares of vines, but also buys good grapes when they are available.

Tomofumi also has an urban winery in Tokyo, with each of these wineries turning out around 20 000 bottles each year. He also owns an import business bringing some 400 000 bottles into the country annually.

We had dinner here with a really amazing selection of Japanese wines. The food was excellent. We were served by Hiroshi Kawataba, the manager here.

First course: lotus root from Ishigawa prefecture with pear – a brilliant start

Second course: yellowtail tuna from Toyama with pickled orange and radish

Third course: cod testes, potato, spinach (really superb dish)

Fourth course: Osaka beef with shitake mushrooms (not pictured: this was amazingly good)

Final course: pasta


Fujimaru Winery Chill-Out White 2022 Hokkaido, Japan
This is made from grapes purchased from Yoichi in Hokkaido: they just happened to be available, but normally they are in high demand, so it is unlikely they will be available again. This is a varietal Kerner and some was made in a 500 litre qvevri – Tomofumi was the first to import qvevri from Georgia into Japan. Total SO2 is 18 ppm, so this is pretty natural. Lovely aromatics here of pear, peach, white pepper and spice. The palate is vibrant and expressive with nice citrus drive, some melony richness and good acidity. Slight salinity on the finish. 94/100

Fujimaru Winery Cuvée Papilles Osaka White 2019 Japan
12% alcohol. This is Delaware from the estate vineyard in Kashiwara. 86% made as a regular white wine, 14% fermented on skins in qvevri. Total SO2 13 ppm. Nice combination here of stony-edged sweet pear and table grape fruit with good ripeness, but also stays fresh. It’s unusual for Delaware to get to 12% alcohol like this without chaptalization. This has a lovely fine spiciness with some phenolic bite. There’s just a hint of volatile acidity, but not too much. 92/100

Fujimaru Winery Delaware by Qvevri 2020 Osaka, Japan
12% alcohol and just 3 ppm SO2. Skin fermented and then pressed to qvevri, this is a full yellow/gold colour. Shows appealing pear, apple and spice notes with a touch of citrus fruit. Nice layers of flavour here: just a hint of lifted acidity and a touch of apple, but overall it is fresh, balanced and expressive with nice balance. 93/100

Fujimara Winery Papilles Yamabudo 2017 Iwate, Japan
This is Yamabudo, which includes four different varieties of a wild Vitis ameurensis, and it weighs in with 9% alcohol and high acidity, as if it didn’t do malolactic fermentation. Vivid, bright and linear with cherry, raspberry and redcurrant fruit. Has low alcohol and lively acidity with nice purity. Primary and linear, and really younthful. 92/100

[Unnamed Pinot Noir 2022 from Yoichi, Hokkaido: bottled but not released]
Destemmed. Pale ruby red colour. Hints of spice and ginger on the nose as well as red berry and cherry fruits. The palate is focused and juicy with vibrant raspberry and red cherry fruit with some smoke and spice notes adding a savoury edge. Good acidity and balance with a red fruit focus. 92/100

Fujimaru Winery Cuvée Papilles Petit Petit 2021 Japan
11% alcohol. This is a sparkling Delaware wine in a 330 ml bottle, and the second fermentation takes place in this. Juicy and bright with nice fresh, slightly grippy citrus fruit. It’s a bit stony and spicy with a slight lift adding some interest. 88/100

Says Farm Albariño 2021 Himi Toyama, Japan
Lovely weight here: textured with fine spices and some notes of pear and apricot. Has texture but also brightness with a crystalline quality to the fruit and good purity. 93/100

Fermier Albariño Barrica 2021 Nigata, Japan
12.5% alcohol. This comes from sandy soils on the Nigata coast. Has a creamy, spicy edge to the nose, which shows mandarin, apricot and lemon. The palate is bright and linear with a salty twist to the citrus fruit, as well as some subtle woody, spicy notes. Very fine and expressive, and quite beautiful. 94/100

Azucca e Azzuco Radio Zaza Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Aichi, Japan
13.5% alcohol. Yellow/gold in colour. Rich, smoky, mineral nose with some dill. Powerful and broad in the mouth with a slight hoppy edge. Very fine with a hint of grapefruit. This is developing beautifully with a lovely broad texture. 94/100

Domaine Takahiko Blanc de Noir 2020 Yoichi, Hokkaido, Japan
A unicorn wine made from botrytis affected Pinot Noir grapes. Red/orange/gold in colour this is fine, textured, smooth and expressive with lovely balance. Warm with fine spices and a hint of orange, showing sweet cherry and strawberry fruit. Very fine: haunting and ethereal. 96/100

Domaine Takahiko Pinot Noir 2017 Yoichi, Hokkaido, Japan
Supple and fine with bright red cherry and raspberry fruit with a lovely grainy texture, showing a sappy edge. Fine grained with raspberry and cherry fruit, as well as earth and minerals. So supple. 95/100

Natsuzaka Green Vineyards NGV Hayabusa B4 2018 Yamanashi, Japan
This is Muscat Bailey A. Very fine and delicate showing pure cherry and raspberry fruit, displaying freshness and a hint of wild strawberry. Juicy and linear with lovely finesse. A supple, fine expression of Muscat Bailey A with a slight leafy edge to the sweet fruit. 94/100