Koshu is Japan's native grape variety. Could its time be coming? Low in alcohol, crisp and delicate, it certainly ticks a lot of boxes...

Japan may be better known for its sake, but its national grape, Koshu, has been picking up awards for several years, mostly under the radar.

It may be surprising to know that, although a relatively new style to Western audiences, it has actually been produced by many Japanese wineries for over a century. Distribution here is still a bit sketchy, but we have picked out some wines that have availability outside of Japan.


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Japanese Koshu: Wines to try


Yamanashi, home of Koshu

Koshu is a native Japanese grape variety that has been grown domestically for centuries, but only used for winemaking since 1874. It now covers 480 hectares of vineyards in Japan, with 95% grown in the Yamanashi prefecture, in the shadow of Mount Fuji.

Tomi-No-Oka Koshu Vineyard

Tomi-No-Oka’s Koshu vineyard with Mt Fuji in the background.

Viticulture

During the growing season, typhoons can bring a lot of rain, which threatens the bunches with rot. This is countered by training the vines high above the ground on a pergola system to encourage airflow. Some vineyards even adorn individual bunches with hats that protect them from rain; an incredible display of attention to detail!

Koshu hats

Protective ‘rain hats’ on Koshu bunches.

Flavour

A delicate and aromatic grape variety, Koshu produces refreshing still and sparkling wines that display distinctly Eastern flavours such as yuzu and creamed rice. Suffice to say, thanks to the high acidity and lightness of this variety, it’s a perfect pairing for Japanese cuisine, particularly sushi.


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