A Red Wine Full of Hearty Juiciness Uses 15 Varieties of Grape


WordsMiyuki Katori PhotographyYosuke Owashi

2017 Aya Rouge by Katsuki Wines

The beauty of a deep reddish purple with a hint of blackness characterizes the 2017 Aya Rouge. And there is something rustic about the bouquet. After an interval, hints of spices such as oregano and fennel tantalize the tongue in succession. Substantially free of astringency, gentle on the palate, with the right amount of acidity to enhance the flavors.

Here is a wine that uses 15 varieties, centered on the famous Merlot of the Bordeaux region, along with Regent, Dornfelder, Accent, Fujiminori, and others. Merlot is a French variety, while Regent, Dornfelder, and Accent are German varieties. Whereas Japanese Merlots once lacked a certain fullness of taste, the 2017 Aya gives no cause for complaints, giving a satisfying impression of juicy fruitiness.

The vintner is Yoshitada Katsuki, who as recently as 2017 founded Katsuki Wines in the Aya-cho, Higashi-Morokata-gun, Miyazaki Prefecture, in the southwest of Japan. The 15 varieties are all grapes cultivated by Katsuki in vineyards that he inherited from his parents.

Katsuki employs natural farming, which completely foregoes the use of chemical agents such as chemical fertilizers and herbicides. A great lover of the natural world since his boyhood, Katsuki conscientiously avoids imposing burdens on the ecosystem as he cultivates his grapes. To prevent diseases caused by molds, he uses vinegar, soda, and charcoal powder. Once fruiting begins, he dusts his grapes one per week, rotating between the three treatments. At the same time, he checks each cluster, removing any injured fruit. During harvest, only the clusters with completely healthy grapes are selected, then fermented with wild yeast. At no time in any step of this process does he add sulfites.

Katsuki’s conscientious cultivation and fermenting skills are grounded in family traditions and the local culture of winemaking. He has also worked in an export-oriented winery in New Zealand and a family-run German winery intimately connected to it local community, and his personal goals are focused on the latter.

Katsuki feels that, ‘Making flavorful wines that get noticed is all well and good, but more importantly, I love making wine, and without that joy it wouldn’t be meaningful’. It’s about harvesting grapes together, sharing meals together, and praying as a community for a good harvest… He has also started cooperative projects with outside groups, such as local colleges and collaborative research. He looks forward with joyful anticipation to the ways in which the wines and community of his region might develop.

Area under direct cultivation: 1 ha

Name of fermenter: Yoshitada Katsuki

Variety and origin: 15 varieties added to a Merlot base, including Regent, Dornfelder, Accent, and Fujiminori (Aya-cho, Higashi-Morokata-gun, Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan)

Volume of wine: 750 ml

Price: ¥10,800 (including tax)

Preparation: half destemmed grapes, half whole grape clusters are fermented with wild yeast for one month. No enzymes, antioxidants, or fining agents are added. No added sugar, no added acid. No filtering or fining. No sulfites are added.

Grapes are gathered in about three separate rounds, added to the same tank, and fermented as a mixture. Cultivation eschews the use of herbicides, animal fertilizers, and chemical or synthetic fertilizers, relying completely on vinegar, soda, and charcoal powder to control pests.

Inquiries: Katsuki Wines