Exploring Japanese wine (8) visiting Katashimo Winery, Osaka

Website: www.kashiwara-wine.com   

This is an interesting winery in Kashiwara City in western Osaka, led by the dynamic Toshihiro Takai. As well as making wine he has been busy crossing grape varieties, and he gave us a speedwalking tour of some of his vineyards, some of which still had grapes on the vine in early December!

He has 3.5 hectares, and supplement this with supporting grower partners, most of whom are over 70 years old. 130 years ago his great grandfather started planting grapes, and 80 years ago his grandfather started making wine.

When Katashimo Winery began they applied equipment from other brewing industries, like soy sauce and sake. But they found that if the potential alcohol was too low their wine turned to vinegar, and they then sold it to the vinegar companies. These companies advised them to pasteurise the juice before fermentation and this solved the vinegar problem. And initially they used sake yeasts to inoculate the must, but this made the wine taste like sake, so they selected yeasts from Muscat Bailey A wild fermentations and used this instead.

The whole hillside above Kawachi-Katashimo village used to be vineyards, but now a lot of the area has been developed. It used to be the number one grape-growing area in Japan, and this is where the waxed paper hats were first used to protect bunches from rainfall. ‘Grapes used to be a really good business,’ says Toshihiro, ‘but now imported grapes are much cheaper, so many farmers have quit. There used to be 119 wineries in Osaka, but now there are just 6 left.

The importance of grapes for the village is demonstrated by a detail on the roof of a 400 year old temple, which shows an engraving of bunches of grapes.

He’s made 39 different crosses which he is growing in his own vineyards. All the wines are made from hybrids. ‘I like to express the wines from here without using any European grape varieties,’ says Toshihiro. ‘We are at the beginning of our journey in terms of making wine with hybrid varieties, but in 50 years we might grow.’

The winery uses the brands King Selby and Rikaen.


King Selby Miyanoshita Sparkling Delaware 2019
12% alcohol. This is nicely fruity with a toasty, spicy edge. Has a touch of sweetness. Broad, rich and satisfying with nice depth of fruit. Finishes sweetly. 88/100

King Selby Osaka Delaware 2023
12% alcohol. Lively fruity aromatics with lime and pear and a hint of melon and jelly. Very appealing. The palate is light and fresh with nice direct lemony fruit as well as some pear and table grape. Light and quite energetic, this shows good balance. 88/100

Rikaen Katashimo Honbudo 2022
13% alcohol. This is a hybrid between a Georgian grape variety and Vitis davidii. Light, fruity and stony with nice ripe pear with some lemon and table grape notes. Has nicely textured fruit with some spiciness and overall this is quite dry. 89/100

King Selby Bijou Noir Okunar 2023
Light, pure, juicy and expressive with lovely cherry and raspberry fruit with a slight stony edge. Good acidity. Has some sour cherry on the finish. Lovely fruit purity here: it’s light-bodied but very pure with nice weight. 90/100

Rikaen Black Queen 2020
13% alcohol. Bright and lively with good acidity, showing vibrant raspberry and cherry fruit. Lovely balance with good acidity and some nice tannins, although they are quite gentle. Has drinkability but also a bit of structure. 90/100

King Selby Brandy Bodouka
58% alcohol. Powerful and a little bit wild with a salty, spicy edge to the slightly fiery palate. Such intensity, with a grapey edge and some intense oily notes.

King Selby Brandy Bodouka Rei
52% alcohol. Made in Hokkaido Quercus tree cask. Spicy, warm, nutty and woody, with sweet pear and apple notes. Rich and intense with some spicy characters adding interest, and a hint of marmalade.