Merlot vines at Château Mercian’s Mariko Vineyard

I’m back in Japan, here to visit Château Mercian, and also to give a couple of seminars.



Château Mercian is Japan’s leading winery. Since 2006 they’ve been owned by Kirin, and they are just about to open their third winery in Nagano.

The new Mariko winery will open on 21 Sepetmber 2019

Monday was all about the vineyards. As well as tasting through the Mercian range, we went to to two of their key vineyards, both in Nagano. First, the 22 hectare Mariko Vineyard, which is where they’ve just built a new winery. Second, the Kikyogahara Vineyard, which is where they source their top Merlot from.

Chardonnay in the Mariko vineyard

The plastic sheeting is used as a rain guard, keeping the grapes dry and reducing rot risk. This is experimental

It’s a challenging climate to grow vines in, with growing season rainfall an issue, but despite this being a particularly tricky year, both vineyards looked in excellent health, although it will be quite a late vintage.

Merlot. There are 22 hectares of vines at Mariko, with another 6 being planted. Merlot does well here.

Attention to detail in the viticulture: dropping some of the grapes to facilitate the last stages of ripening

Sauvignon Blanc: this block is grown for aroma, while the other block is grown for flavour

Cabernet Sauvignon, with big, open clusters

Pinot Noir

This is the Kikyogahara vineyard, and this block goes into the Signature Merlot

The waxed paper hats protect against rain and fungal spores

Pergola-trained Merlot: this gives higher yields but not as good quality

Merlot grown on a pergola system

The pergola system is still the most commonly used in Japan