#SommNextDoor: A Far Out Wine Made in The Far East

Japan makes wine

I wouldn’t expect anyone to believe me when I say that. Not only do they make wine but they also make some of the most badass juice in the east, and have been doing it since the late 1800’s. The most popular grape varietal grown in Japan is Koshu and remains one of the best kept secrets of the wine world.

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Chateau Mercian was founded in 1887 (Formally known as the Dainihon Yamanashi Wine Compnay) and became the innovator of grape production in Japan. They also happen to be located on the base of Mt. Fuji which, if you didn’t know, is a freaking volcano! The grapes are a bright florescent pink yet the wine itself is clear as day with a slight tinge of green on the outer rim which is a classic sign of a fresh, youthful wine.

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With one swirl of the glass an eruption of ripe pineapple, honeydew and citrus fruits fill the air. Besides its indulgent and easygoing aromas, koshu tends to be very bright and carries loads of acidity. Typically after the first sip, your palate becomes a waterfall and you can’t stop salivating until you shove another sushi roll in your mouth to soak up all the goodness. Which for me is no issue at all, but for some, wines with too much acidity tend to make people pucker their cheeks and feel like they took a nunchuck to the face.

Once all the acid falls off, you’re left with a fairly complex taste and a very rich mouth feel. Layers of the pineapple come through as well as a slight salinity from the ocean influence. However, the real highlight of the show is the ever so faint taste of saké. Yes, I went there and for good reason. There is an underlining ricey-ness to this wine on the finish. At first, you might think “well, it’s from Japan so my brain is clearly confused,” but it’s actually a result of the sur lie wine making technique that the winemaker used to combat the acidity. Sur lie is the gentle stirring of the lees. For those who don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, it’s carefully mixing the dead yeast cells in the wine which create a richer, slightly more textured wine. This is a super classic technique used all over France, which creates the some of the best wines in the world!

So, what does a badass karate-kicking wine like this cost? Around $30 to be exact, and with the vivacious acid, fuller weight and texture, this wine can easily be enjoyed by itself or with a nice piece of grilled fish with a pineapple mango salsa. Who are we kidding… crack out the ole’ chopsticks, order some hand rolls and nigiri from the late-night sushi spot down the street and invite that one guy you met at karaoke. They’re bound to be impressed.

Contributor: Nicholas Ducos, A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and a Certified Sommelier, Nicholas has worked in many prestigious restaurants in Miami, Florida. As a chef and as a sommelier, he is dedicated to creating a memorable dining experience and making wine relatable to others in a witty yet refined style. Nicholas is currently traveling the world learning the art winemaking and plans to create his own label in the near future.

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