Japanese wine hasn’t amassed much of a reputation around the world, but it recently has received some awards from some prestigious competitions. Wine experts note that the reason for Japanese wine to have suddenly attained this new level of acclaim is the grapes. The quality of Japanese grapes has improved, and good grapes make good wine. The characteristics of these grapes come to fruition through leveraging the local climate and culture to highlight winemaking. The three top areas for wineries in Japan are Yamanashi, Nagano, and Hokkaido. Hokkaido has gained a great deal of popularity in the last few years by making unique wines that captivate wine lovers. Mikasa city’s Yamazaki Winery in Hokkaido was established in 2002. At that time, vineyards often outsourced grape maintenance and production, but Yamazaki has always grown their own grapes. Yamazaki Winery is family run and is in its 4th generation. Ryouichi, the oldest son, is charged with vinting the grapes, and his brother, Taichi, cultivates them. “This land was originally known for cucurbitaceous plants such as melons. However, there are many hills that irrigate the fields and maximize sunlight, making it well suited for vineyards,” says Taichi.
Currently, they grow 11 varieties of grapes as the base for a chardonnay pinot noir. “What types of grapes are suitable for this land or our winemaking? We’re exploring different varieties of grapes now because we’re still at a stage of discovering what is best for our resources. But eventually, we’ll bring together some varieties. The best thing to do is make the kind of wine we want to make. The kind of wine the locals would enjoy,” said Taichi. The winery supplies local celebrations and festivals, such as the commencement of a construction project. When standing on the rolling hills of the vineyard, a pleasant wind blows through the Ishikari Plain that runs over the hills of the field. Much like the wind, the winery is seen as a force that’s moving toward the world stage, and its arrival isn’t far into the future. Yamazaki Families run their winery.
Words: Takeshi Taniyama
Photography: Masatsugu Hidaka