Here we have the globally successful 2010 Merlot of the Suntory Japan Premium Iwadarehara range, produced at the company’s Shiojiri winery.
The 2010 vintage won a Gold at the world-renowned Les Citadelles du Vin competition and a Silver Award at the International Wine & Spirits Competition, adding further value to the bottling. An immensely balanced wine, with notes of cherries, blueberries, and cassis. The sweetness is balanced out with the presence of oak and earth on the palate.
At high altitude in the very heart of the main island of Japan, Nagano prefecture is home to four basins which provide the shelter for some of the finest vineyards in Japan. These four “Wine Valleys” specialise in growing international grapes as well as the famed Japanese hybrids. Such are the results of winemaking in these valleys in the Japanese Alps that Nagano is now the second largest producer of Japanese wine, only behind Yamanashi.
The unique locale of Nagano blesses the vineyards with low rainfall and copious sunlight. Growing at such altitude slows the ripening of the fruit over a longer period before being picked in the autumn and increases the tannin, balance and flavour intensity of the wine. High altitude also means there are large day-night temperature swings, this is beneficial to not only the ripening of the fruit but the retention of natural acidity. The nightly drop in temperature also has the effect of aiding sugar content and coloration. The soil here is rocky and volcanic, providing not only excellent drainage but a wealth of mineral content. The fantastic opportunity that this terroir presents has been delivered on by the winemakers here and today Nagano offers one of the most diverse ranges of unique and exceptional quality wine in Japan.
One of the most popular grapes in the world, Merlot has also proved extremely popular with Japanese winemakers. Merlot famously adapts to many climates and takes on the character of the location it is grown in. This leads, even within Japan, to a very wide variety of styles and flavours of Merlot wine, from soft and smooth fruity expressions to bold, rich and herbaceous. This chameleon effect allows each winemaker to create their own signature take on Merlot and this diversity of character truly warrants exploration of Merlots from a selection of different wineries and regions in Japan.