Suntory creates many of the legendary whisky ranges we all know and love, but that’s not all the company has to offer, they also produce wine. Suntory’s wine has started amassing multiple awards at expert wine competitions. This particular wine from Suntory is the Suntory Shiojiri Muscat Bailey A ‘Mizunara Barrel Aged’ 2015. Aged in Japanese oak, and made using one of Japan’s native grape varieties, this is a wine that fully embodies the essence of Japan.
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.
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.