Yamanashi Prefecture is said to be the cradle of Japanese wine. Since the end of 19th century, when two young men from Katsunuma, Yamanashi Prefecture spread the winemaking they learned in France to their hometown, its production has grown so largely to the point where the 80 wineries in the prefecture now produce approximately 30% of the wine made in Japan.
What’s more, the Yamanashi wine is made from neither the world-famous grape brand for wine, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot – but the Koshu grape. Having travelled the Silk Road route and come over to Japan along with Buddhism, the Koshu grape is said to have established its position in Katsunuma, Yamanashi Prefecture, a basin suitable for grape growing, making the history of its planting more than 800 years old.
Since the 19th century, there have been a lot of changes in the Japanese lifestyle with the influence of Western cultures. Even so, apart from some minor fans, the great majority of people didn’t like the Western wine which was more astringent and acid. It can be attributed to the fact that the wine did not match the taste of Japanese meals, which tend to heighten the natural flavor of ingredients such as vegetables and fish. Because of this, people apparently added sugar, such as honey, and enjoyed drinking wine separately from their meals. This trend continued until around 1970, yet more and more people started to recognize the real taste of wine as they got more chances to interact with foreign people in the Tokyo Olympics of 1964 and the Osaka Expo in 1970. Soon after, major beverage companies started to take up the production and distribution of wine.
Compared to wine made in Europe, Japanese wine contains fewer amounts of iron or organic acid chloride, the substances that make fishy smells somewhat stronger when taken with seafood. This is the reason why it is said to go well together with Japanese food. Now washoku (or Japanese cuisine) is loved by people all around the world. In 2013, UNESCO added washoku to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which further spread the name and value of Japanese cuisine, and the Koshu wine which accompanies washoku is getting attention overseas while each winery is actively making its own move into the global market.
While it depends on each type, in general, wine should be preserved in underground storage with natural cooling system set at between 10 to 16 degrees Celsius. However, you might enjoy the dry taste of Koshu wine better when it’s been cooled in a refrigerator at an even lower temperature.
Photo by Yamanashi Tourism Organization
Hill of grapes
5093 Hishiyama Katsunuma-cho Koufu-shi Yamanashi-ken
Kaiterasu(Yamanashi Prefecture local industry center)
3-13-25 Tokoji Kofu-shi Yamanashi-ken