As grapes were never indigenous to Japan all grapevines had been introduced to the region with the movement of the spice route and silk roads over 2,000 years. It is believed that about 1,300 years ago grapevines were introduced to Japan where the climate was too hot, cold, wet – too extreme – to grow grapes for wine.
Ultimately the existing grape variety most successfully grown in Japan became known as Koshu, which was the then name for the prefecture in which it grew. This prefecture then took the name of a Japanese prince and became Yamanashi, which remains the principal region producing Koshu. Responsible today for 40% of all Japanese grown wine grapes, it is believed to be the naturalised hybrid of a Georgian grape variety. Ampelographers continue to isolate the DNA of Koshu, but we do not actually know, outright, its source. What we do know is that it is a lurid pink on the vine, generally grown in the local tana method (overhead bamboo trellis).
Château Mercian is the oldest established winery in Japan, starting out in 1870 having sent two young men to France to understand wine making in the European tradition. Indeed the descendants of these two men are still growing Koshu for Mercian today.
Koshu grapes are grown in the Fuefuki district, one of the 13 cities located in Yamanashi Prefecture. Harvest takes place from late September to early October.
This wine spends 3 weeks on skins to achieve the vibrant apricot-skin hue. Fermentation in a stainless steel tank at 24 to 26 degrees for about 28 days, in an oak barrel at 20 to 22 degrees for about 14 days. The wine spends 8 months in oak barrels.
Faint reddish orange hue. Sweet and gentle aromas of apricot, candied pear, Darjeeling, old Rose with subtle vanilla notes are derived from 8 months in oak barrels. The complex palate from the skins and seeds of the Koshu grape come from gentle skin contact, this creates a three-dimensional feeling in the mouth.
Matches well with Asian dishes, asparagus risotto or stony river fish.