Exploring Japanese wine (6) visiting Tamba Wine in Kyoto

Website: https://www.tambawine.co.jp/

Tamba Wine is a vineyard and winery based in the middle of the Kyoto prefecture in Japan, some 50 km north of Kyoto. It was established in 1979 by Tetsua Kuroi, the father of the current proprietor who is Mamoru Kuroi. Tetsua runs an electric business (Kuroi Electric Co.) which is over the road from the winery, and when he travelled to France he decided to start a winery.

tamba wine mamoru tamba
Mamoru Kuroi, Tamba Wine

Back then, German wine was very popular in Japan, so he planted some German varieties: Riesling, Gewurztraminer. But the climate here isn’t really suited for these varieties, so they’ve since planted others.

They have 3 hectares on this site, and another 3 hectares elsewhere. As well as this they have 1.5 hectares in Hokkaido. They also buy grapes from other regions. Their main varieties are Tannat, Pinot Noir and Sangiovese for reds, and then Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chardonnay for whites. The Delaware they use is purchased. Altogether, they grow 50 different grape varieties! Most of these are experimental, though: looking for things to grow in the future.

Something you sometimes see in very humid climates: roots growing from a shoot node!

Because of the growing season rainfall they have plastic rain covers for the Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Semillon. They don’t use herbicides but instead mow the grass twice a year, at bud burst and veraison. This means that the grass can grow quite high. When fertilization is needed, they use concoctions made from other plants that are cut up and returned to the soil; grape marc is also composted and used as fertilizer. Yields here are 2.5-3 tons/hectare. Estate vineyards are 10% of production, which totals 400 000 bottles.

80% of production is ‘Japan Wine’, which means it comes from Japanese grapes. But 20% is made in Japan from Australian grape juice concentrate. This is normal in Japan, so it’s worth checking whether or not you are drinking ‘Japan Wine’ when tasting wine in Japan.

They used to focus on Cabernet Sauvignon but it doesn’t fit the climate, so they have shifted to Tannat, which is well suited to this area.


Tamba Wine Tegumi Delaware Pet Nat 2023 Japan
This is from Yamanashi and Yamagata. Fresh, yeasty and spicy with nice fruit. Apple, lemon and some pear. Pure with nice fruit and some grapey notes. Joyful with a hint of sweetness. 89/100

Tamba Wine Pinot Blanc 2020 Kyoto, Japan
85% Pinot Blanc, 15% Scheurebe. No oak. Designed to pair with Kyoto cuisine which uses bonito and dashi a lot. This is distinctive with some nutty, stony notes alongside pear and apple fruit. It’s slightly oxidative, but there’s nice acidity and some fruit purity, with a touch of aniseed on the finish. This has a savouriness to it. 86/100

Tamba Wine Sopet Blanc 2021 Hokkaido, Japan
Pinot Blanc from Hokkaido, fermented and aged in barrel. Full yellow colour. This has a lovely acid line with really appealing pear and citrus fruit, showing some stony minerality and just a hint of white peach and pear richness. Lovely focus here with the oak right in the background. 92/100

Tamba Wine Pinot Noir 2020 Kyoto, Japan
13% alcohol. The Pinot Noir here has big seeds, so they remove these seeds first from the bottom of the tank during a cold maceration. From younger vines. This is lovely. There’s some cherry and raspberry fruit with a sense of elegance, lightness and balance. There’s some olive and spice, with a slight savouriness, and just enough structure. Very fine and supple with a sense of delicacy. 93/100

Tamba Wine Pinot Noir Vieille Vignes 2020 Kyoto, Japan
This is from older vines, and it has a sense of beauty and elegance. Fine, fresh, pure red cherry fruits with a touch of raspberry, and delicate herbal hints. Lovely palate weight: this is fresh and fine with some spicy detail. Has a lightness, but also some richness: there’s great balance here. Very fine. 94/100

Tamba Wine Tannat 2019 Kyoto, Japan
13% alcohol. 85% Tannat, 15% Merlot. Aged in American oak and French oak. This is fresh and detailed with some supporting oak. This has bright berry fruits with some subtle herby notes and a bit of spice. Nice grip. Balanced. 90/100

Tamba Wine Sparkling Saperavi 2020 Kyoto, Japan
This is carbonated. Ruby red in colour. Spicy and savoury with some tannins. Some meat and olive notes. Nice balance here with a sour cherry edge. 88/100

Tamba Wine 2020 Kyoto, Japan
Light in colour, this is stony, fresh and mineral, and quite elegant. Cherry and raspberry with some earthy savoury hints and good tannins. A light, bright expression of Sangiovese. Stony and vivid. 90/100