This has been a rainy season that we all wish to forget. It has rained nearly every day since the latter part of June and continues as we write on July 16. And this is not just any ordinary rain – precipitation has been at record levels causing major flooding in the Matsumoto area and in the northern part of Nagano near the Niigata border. It is not clear at this point what the dampness and the lack of sun will mean for this year’s wine – but together with the COVID-19 pandemic it feels to quote Pink Floyd like “just another brick in the wall.” For that reason, discovering some nicely priced red and white to taste and report on has helped to “brighten” our day – and we hope that the two wines we selected for this month do the same for you.
Funky Chateau Winery Funky Rouge 2018
This is the first time that we have included a wine from Funky Chateau in our recommendations. And it is not because we have been in any way disappointed by them. It is just that the price point for their “Premier Fois” Merlot at 5400 yen is a bit too high for everyday drinking, which is our usual focus. British wine critic Jaime Goode is a great fan of Funky (what a name!) calling it one of the best small wineries in the prefecture. The winery was opened in 2011 by Toyohiko Kanahashi (a music producer) and his wife, Micchi, who wanted to make wines in the style of France and Italy. We first tasted the 2017 vintage of Funky Rouge, which is a 100 percent Merlot – and loved it for the taste and the price, which is 2000 yen cheaper than the “Premier Fois.” So, when we came across the 2018 vintage at our favorite wine shop in Kurohime, Nagano – we had to try it again. It proved to be a delightful combination of fruity flavors reminiscent of cherries and blackberries. The tannins are present but nicely soft. The acidity is just right and the finish smooth: there was none of the “green pepper” taste that spoils so many Nagano Merlots.
3300 yen; also available directly from the winery (call: 0268-49-0377)
Terre de Ciel Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2018
This winery is brand new. It is located in Komoro City, which is one of wine centers for the Chikumagawa Valley District, this wine is its first vintage! The grapes are grown on site, but the wine is made in Tomi City in facilities belonging to the Arc En Vigne wine school and bottled by the Villa d’Est winery run by one of the most prominent names in the Nagano wine industry, poet Toyoo Tamamura. The Terre de Ciel winemaker is a young sommelier named Kazuo Kuwabata. The wine was recommended to us by the owners of the Yorozuya Wine Shop in Kurohime, who had just visited the winery. As usual, they were right on the mark. This wine has a beautiful golden color, an intense lemongrass flavor and a gravelly mineral bite reminiscent of New Zealand’s Marlborough vineyards. This is among the best Sauvignon Blancs we have tasted in Japan – and a bargain at this price point. Moreover, it is still available for purchase online from winery. Pick up a few bottles today!