• Ferocious Focus,  Grape Cultivation

    Ferocious Focus: Trellis Systems

    “Trellis systems” is a large topic to tackle in a single post. The plan is to provide a shorter explanation here to set up for a longer post next week on a specific trellis system that I have often seen used in Nagano, Japan. And, no, it is not the pergola-like budodana system. Although that is an interesting system in itself and should get a post at some point. What is a Trellis System? So, as mentioned, “trellis systems” is a large topic. To start,…

  • Grape Cultivation,  Japan

    Muscat Bailey A: Another Japanese Wine Grape

    You have probably heard about Koshu wine made from the native Japanese grape variety of the same name. This light and crisp wine is increasingly winning the hearts of international wine critics (click here for a great article from The Drinks Business). That is a great development for Japanese wine. But, Japan has more “native” grapes to offer. One that deserves attention is Muscat Bailey A. Muscat Bailey A (photo credit: Yamada, Masahiko and Akihiko Sato, “Advances in table grape breeding in Japan,” Breed Sci. 2016 Jan;…

  • Japan,  Nagano,  Tourism,  Winery

    Tourism: Harvest at Rue du Vin

    I recently participated in my first harvest. It was at the Rue de Vin winery in Tomi, Nagano on one of those perfect days that people imagine wine harvests are like–sun, crisp air and fall colors. While I had always viewed participating in a harvest as work, I realized that it is a great form of tourism. There were about fifteen of us, all volunteers, from Tokyo, Nagano and other nearby prefectures. There were couples, friend groups and a family with two small children. All,…

  • Ferocious Focus,  France,  Winery

    Cahors: Struggle and Innovation

    The last two posts of ferocious wines focused on rootstocks (see here and here). In this post, I want to briefly introduce Cahors, France, a wine region nearly devastated by phylloxera. Cahors is a red wine made from grapes grown in or around the town of Cahors, France. Cahors, the region, received appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) status in 1971. Under the AOC, the dominant grape variety is Malbec, which must make up a minimum of 70% of the wine. The AOC wine may be supplemented…

  • Ferocious Focus,  Grape Cultivation

    Ferocious Focus: Rootstocks — Part 2 Other Benefits

    Part one of Ferocious Focus: Rootstocks, the first of a series that looks at the more technical parts of wine, was about phylloxera, the nasty insect that almost destroyed the global wine industry in the late 1800s, and the solution, grafting European varietals on American rootstocks. The use of rootstocks developed as a solution to protect vines against phylloxera vastatrix. This remains the main reason for using rootstocks and a rootstock’s level of resistance to phylloxera is a major factor that a grape grower considers…

  • Ferocious Focus,  Grape Cultivation

    Ferocious Focus: Rootstocks — Part 1 Phylloxera

    Let’s be honest, sometimes wine speak is ridiculous. We talk about flavors like a “sunset on your lovers brow” or how a wine has “nice legs.” Such talk can be fun and, for some, is part of the attraction to wine. I also like to dabble in such speak once in a while. There is, after all, a certain amount of art in winemaking. However, there is also quite a bit of science. And it too is as fascinating as the legs on any red…

  • Japan,  Nagano

    Critics Love Japanese Wine, But What About the Domestic Market?

    Some wines can, with a little exposure and patience, change, surprise and delight. Japanese wine today is certainly surprising and delighting western, notably United Kingdom, critics and other wine industry professionals. For example, Japanese wine made from Koshu grapes has received international recognition. Several of these wines, such as those from Grace Winery in Yamanashi prefecture, have won awards at global competitions. There are also an increasing number of masters of wine and critics visiting Japanese wine regions and writing back home about their finds.…

  • Consumption,  Japan

    Japan’s Third Modern Wine Boom: Third Time’s the Charm

    Over the past several decades, Japan has experienced multiple booms in wine consumption. The first major boom occurred in the late 1980s with the introduction of Beaujolais Nouveau. Another boom occurred from around 1997 to 1998 after a Japanese sommelier won the International Sommelier Competition and received significant media attention. Wine, particularly inexpensive wine from Argentina and Chile, flooded the market exposing the Japanese consumers to wines beyond France. Unfortunately, wine consumption fell soon after. What I am calling Japan’s third modern wine boom started…

  • Nagano,  Winery

    Kusunoki Winery, the future Virginia?

    Kusunoki Winery is located in Suzaka city in the northern part of Nagano prefecture. Kusunoki Winery’s wines are part of the Nagano Appellation Control System and its 2009 Chardonnay and 2011 Merlot have received awards from that organization. Further, its 2014 Barrel Aged Chardonnay was selected for the G7 Ministers of Transportation reception event in 2016. When I visited in September 2017, I enjoyed and bought a bottle of the Merlot Eternal Romantique 2014. This wine is named after the first Japanese woman photo journalist,…

  • Nagano,  Winery

    Sun Sun Winery

    I first had Sun Sun Winery’s Chardonnay Sur Lie 2015 blind at a friend’s party. I didn’t think it was from Burgundy but I did think it was from Europe. I was surprised to learn it was from Nagano, Japan. I first visited Sun Sun Winery (link to website) in June 2018. Sun Sun Winery is located near the town of Shiojiri in the Kikyogahara valley in central Nagano prefecture. Interestingly, it was established and is owned by a company that operates retirement homes. This…