A Pinot with a Peerless Bouquet has Appeared in Japan


WordsMiyuki Katori PhotographyYosuke Owashi

2017 Nakadana Pinot Noir / Gió Hills Winery

A peerless bouquet, attracting the curious—a fascination not uncommon for a wine made from Pinot Noir grapes. Recently, wines with authentic Pinot qualities have been appearing in Japan a little at a time. And again this autumn, a tempting Pinot Noir has come on the Japanese scene: the Nakadana Pinot Noir, which is the first release by the Gió Hills Winery in Mimakigahara, in Komoro City, Nagano Prefecture. When the wine is poured into a glass, a fresh raspberry aroma greets the nose. This aroma gradually becomes mingled with spices and earthiness, giving an impression of voluptuousness. This is not a full-bodied wine, but the balance between fruitiness and acid is superb, with a lustrously moist finish, and comfortably lingering acidic aftertaste.

In fact, this wine was made at a contract winery by its creator, Hayato Tomioka, because the wine debuted before the opening of his own Gió Hills Winery, scheduled for this coming autumn. Another first for him was to use wild yeast. Having cultivated Pinot Noir grapes since 2010, this was his first abundant harvest, so he decided to give wild yeast a try. A vintner in the contract winery had a wealth of experience in fermenting with wild yeast, and encouraged Tomioka to take up the challenge.

‘Will this really ferment properly? Will the fermentation stop because of the cold? Those and other questions tantalized me’, admits Tomioka. Alternating layers of destemmed grapes and whole grape clusters were prepared, and five days passed. Then the wine began to ferment. In order to prevent the temperature from rising to the point of generating an offensive odor, the temperature was carefully kept under control. The resulting wine is a complex, peerless Pinot Noir.

This year, Tomioka is looking forward to fermenting the first batch in his own winery. And this is the first year he will be fermenting with machinery. Everything will be done using cultivated yeast. ‘Once I’ve assessed my first batch at the new winery, I want to take up the challenge of using wild yeast again. At the same time, I feel it’s important to get a better understanding of the quality/nature/profile of Mimakigahara grapes’. The winery opened on November 1, 2018. Next time you find yourself in the middle of Nagano’s natural beauty, wouldn’t you like a sip of Pinot Noir?

Area under direct cultivation: 1.5 ha

Name of fermenter: Hayato Tomioka

Varieties and origin: Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz (Mimakigahara, Komoro City, Nagano Prefecture)

Volume: 750 ml

Price: ¥4,200 (including tax)

Preparation: alternating layers of destemmed grapes and whole grape clusters are fermented for about 2 weeks with wild yeast, then packed into an old barrel, and a small amount of sulfite is added. No sugar, acid, or fining agent is added. The wine is strained before bottling. The grapes are cultivated without application of synthetic fertilizers or herbicides, using a no-tillage, cover-cropping system. Organic compost is prepared for one year, and applied around the vines in the winter. The compost is made from hog manure, fallen leaves, spent apples from the craze in taking hot baths with apples, rice husks, buckwheat husks, and similar sources. Insecticide is applied once or twice during growth, and at present fungicide is applied seven times.

Inquiries: Gió Hills Winery