Summer has arrived in Nagano. The usually brief rainy season is over and the prefecture is less troubled by typhoons than localities on Japan’s Pacific Coast. Nagano also does not suffer as much from Japan’s summer heat as its neighbors in Yamanashi, Gumma, and Saitama prefectures. One reason is the higher elevation – generally over 600 meters (which has proved good for cultivating many European grape varietals). This month, our recommendations include a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc and spicy Syrah.
Shinshu Takayama Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2018
The Shinshu Takayama winery is one of the first wineries we visited in Nagano. It is an interesting collaboration between local grape farmers in the Chikumagawa wine area and a skilled winemaker, Eiichi Takano, who worked previously at the large national wine producer, Chateau Mercian, and studied oenology in France. Shinshu Takayama Winery launched operations only in 2015 and is still working to develop a distinctive brand of wine. The winery currently produces a mix of reds and whites – and the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc is its best effort to date. The wine is flavorful with nice flavors of grass and sharp minerality. The color is inviting. The wine is part of the winery’s affordable “varietal” series and is priced right for its taste and quality. A “premium” series is slated for release in 2019.
Goichi Winery Syrah 2017
Goichi Winery is located in Shiojiri City and is one of the pioneering winemakers in Nagano. The winery grew out of a sake making business established in 1911. Goichi may be one of the more widely recognized Nagano winemakers, distributing nationally a line of inexpensive red and white wines to supermarkets under its own name and the Hayashi winery label. Recently, they have upped their game by acquiring additional acreage in the promising Kakizawa District of Shiojiri city, noted for its 800 meter plus elevation and abundant sunlight. The result is this Syrah, which has the spice, the fruit and a finish reminiscent of its French counterparts. And, with the growing popularity of Australian Shiraz wines in Japan, we may see more and more the Nagano winemakers trying their hand at crafting this wine.
Available for 2700 yen from the winery’s online shop.