A stunning blend of two of Japan’s signature hybrid grapes from Château Katsunama in Yamanashi. A quintessential Japanese red wine bursting with finesse and complexity.
Muscat Bailey A
The brainchild of the famous Kawakami Zenbei, the grandfather of Japanese winemaking, Muscat Bailey A is a hybrid grape variety perfected to capitalise on the unique climate and terroir of Japan. Created by Zenbei-san on Niigata’s coast in 1927 by hybridising Muscat of Hamburg with Labrusca Bailey, this grape is used to create stunningly soft and luscious red wines. The unique timing of Muscat Bailey A’s budding and ripening matches perfectly with the climate in Japan and allows winemakers to create wine with a stunning subtle complexity. Japan has a love for elegance and precision in its alcohol, a love which is reflected wholly in these wines.
Muscat Bailey A is typically elegant, soft and vivaciously fruity. Its softer tannins leave room for more subtle and nuanced flavours to be detected, producing aromatic and fresh wines with a unique intricacy. Given its thick skin and early ripening, Muscat Bailey A is grown across all of Japan and is in fact Japan’s most widely planted variety of red grape. This again leads to exciting variety and complexity across wines from different regions and different wineries – a trait that leads connoisseurs to explore Muscat Bailey A time and time again. The wine is additionally well-suited to oak ageing and some especially luxurious expressions are matured in Mizunara (native Japanese oak) to critical acclaim.
Black Queen is a hybrid grape first created in Japan and produces light-bodied red wine of signature fruitiness and richness. Created by the famous Kawakami Zenbei, the grandfather of Japanese winemaking, by crossing Golden Queen and Bailey in 1920 this grape was designed to thrive in the unique climate of Japan and produces equally unique wine. Budding late in the season and ripening quickly, Black Queen masters a delicate balancing act between lightness of body and richness of flavour. With characteristic flavours of cocoa, vanilla and black fruit this sophisticated style of wine has only a gentle dose of acidity, to match the softness of the tannin. Complexity, elegance and balance ultimately typify wines made from Black Queen.
The birthplace of Japanese winemaking, Yamanashi prefecture is the largest and most famous of Japan’s winemaking regions. Surrounded by tall mountains, overlooked by Mt. Fuji and bathed in long hours of sunlight, it is no wonder that Yamanashi has established itself as the leading region for exceptional quality wine. Only two hours’ drive west of Tokyo, this landlocked prefecture is the epicentre of wine tourism in Japan and boasts the highest concentration of wineries of any region. It has a rich clay soil that, whilst unideal for cultivating rice, is perfect for viticulture. The low rainfall, sunlight and sheltered topography of the area help produce some of the finest quality grapes – and most sought-after wines - in Japan.
Yamanashi’s quest for quality and authenticity can be typified through its successes in becoming Japan’s first Geographical Indication (GI) for wine and championing legislation introduced in 2018 to only allow wine made with 100% Japanese grapes to be labelled “Japanese Wine”. It is impossible to talk about Yamanashi without mentioning Koshu Grapes, Japan’s native grape variety. Yamanashi has been growing Koshu grapes for centuries; the name “Koshu” was the ancient name for Yamanashi. Yamanashi has also been at the forefront of hybridising new grape varieties (such as the outstandingly soft and luscious Muscat Bailey A) that make the most out of the unique climate and terroir.
A wine from Yamanashi is the traditional starting point for those exploring Japanese wine for the first time and it is a region that enthusiasts find themselves returning to time and time again.