Opportunities to attend a masterclass in Japanese wines with the winemaker don’t come very often. Ayana Misawa of Grace Winery is one of the 2 or 3 female winemakers in Japan. She introduced her range of wines to a small group of enthusiasts and experts at Sydney’s Ultimo Wine Centre. Although we briefly tasted Grace Wines in May 2010, the masterclass was an informative session with a chance to learn about the relatively new art of wine making in Japan.
Established in 1923, Ayana Misawa is fourth generation in the family winery which now produces half the total volume of Japanese wine. Located in the Yamanashi Prefecture, 100 km west of Tokyo and north of Mount Fuji, the winery has 35 employees and spreads over 13 hectares of vineyards.
Grace Wines on tasting
Grace Wines feature Koshu grapes in their winemaking, an indigenous grape variety originally from Europe. The grapes have a delicate aroma that Grace Winery go to great lengths to preserve. The grapes are grown on steep and sloped terrain with the grape picking taking place in October.
Grace Gris de Koshu 2009 (L) – Grace Koshu 2009 (R)
Grace Wine Tasting Notes
Grace Gris de Koshu 2009
The first wine on taste is the entry level Grace Gris de Koshu 2009, made withPinot Gris varietal; gris referring to the colour of the grape skin. Light and crisp, the wine is easy to drink with mild fennel notes.
Grace Koshu 2009
Next on taste is the Grace Koshu 2009, which is considered the benchmark of their white wines. Grown at 300 metre altitude, the wine is matured in stainless steel vats to preserve the subtle aroma of the Koshu grape. Pale yellow in colour, it is delicate in taste with a hint of citrus.
Grace Kayagatake Blanc 2009 (L) – Grace Koshu Toriibira Vineyard 2009 (R)
Grace Kayagatake Blanc 2009
The Grace Kayagatake Blanc is grown at an elevation of 500m in a lighter clay soil and matured in stainless steel vats. Ayana recommends it as an aperitif style wine and a good accompaniment to oysters, sushi, sashimi and other delicate Japanese food.
This wine is made primarily for export to Australia, UK and parts of Asia and is also favoured by high end Japanese restaurants such as Umu Nobu in London.
Grace Koshu Toriibira Vineyard 2009
Toriibira is a famous wine producing area in Japan. The vineyards occupy 1.6 hectare in total, and much like the Chianti region, it is known for producing many wines.
The Grace Koshu Toriibira is made from grapes grown at an elevation of 400m in dark clay soil. The wine is matured in oak for approximately 3 months and yields a wine with subtle aromatics.
Grace Koshu Private Reserve 2009
The Grace Koshu Private Reserve comes from their best vineyard facing south-west for maximum sunshine. The grapes have a more concentrated flavour and the resultant wine is matured in oak for three months. This is a slightly more complex wine and a favourite so far.
The Marriage of Koshu and Sushi – a perfect pairing
Grace Chardonnay 2009
The Grace Chardonnay comes from the a vineyard in the Yamanashi region which has the longest sunshine in Japan. Grown at 600m altitude, the colder climate yields more concentrated grapes.
Matured in 80% new oak for 5 months as not to dominate the primary aroma, this is a more delicate style of Chardonnay, slightly peachy yet complex. Ayana explains that her purpose behind this wine is to express Japanese Chardonnay making as a craft not just as a wine production. The Grace Chardonnay is a great reflection of her style.
Grace Chardonnay 2009
Grace Kayagatake Rouge 2007
The Grace Kayagatake Rouge is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat Bailey A and Merlot. Muscat Bailey is a hybrid grape that is resistant to disease and can be a little sweet hence the blend with Cabernet Sauvignon. The grape has a thin skin which isn’t very dark, a characteristic that lends itself to the colour of this wine. Medium bodied wine with berry notes, Ayana recommends matching this wine with Japanese eel.
Grace Kayagatake Rouge 2007 (L) – Grace Cuvée Misawa Rouge 2006 (R)
Grace Cuvée Misawa Rouge 2006
We end on the Grace Cuvée Misawa Rouge, a prestige wine made with a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot. This wine is made from the same vineyard as the Grace Chardonnay with a maximum yield of 3 to 4 barrels. Aged in oak for 14 months, this is a wine with good potential for cellaring.
Ayana Misawa of Grace Winery
The Grace Wines Masterclass was held on Thursday, 2nd December 2010 at 6.30pm at The Ultimo Wine Centre.
Grace Wines Japan
Grace Winery Co. Ltd.
173 Todoroki Katsunuma-cho,
Yamanashi, 409-1315 Japan
Ultimo Wine Centre
99 Jones Street
Ultimo Sydney NSW
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