Vino Della Gatta is a cat-obsessed winery and restaurant, owned by Atsuko Narusawa (centre, in picture below). The winery here is new – it was established last year. In the past the wines were made at two custom crush facilities. There are seven vineyard blocks, totalling 3 hectares, and each is named after a cat.

The winemaker here is Kaori Mitake-Howard (left, above) – she’s just returned from 12 years working with Benziger in the Sonoma Valley, California. Coming back to a tiny winery in Nagano must be quite a culture shock. ‘It’s a hard place to make wine here,’ she says. ‘It rains for weeks and then a typhoon hits you. Last year the grapes got stuck at 19 Brix and then moved just 1 degree in a month.’

Vino della Gatta Sakaki Kyoho Wine 2018 Nagano, Japan
This is made from a black table grape (Kyoho), which is a labrusca. It was immediately taken off the skins to make a white wine, but as tartrates have begun to drop it has turned a delicate pink. Fruity, aromatic nose. Fruity and jellyish with nice bright citrus fruit and some tangerine and almond hints. Juicy finish. 85/100

Vino della Gatta Sauvignon Blanc 2018 Nagano, Japan
Tank sample. Exuberantly fruity with some tank fermentation esters. Fresh citrus fruits with a hint of tropical richness. 87-88/100

Vino della Gatta Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2018 Nagano, Japan
Barrel sample. Supple and ripe with nice precision. Midweight with juicy cherry and berry fruits. Fine, expressive and made in a bright style, but with some substance. 88-90/100

Vino della Gatta Shine Muscat 2018 Nagano, Japan
Shine Muscat is a very expensive table grape that normally sells for 1500 Yen a kilo, and a good bunch might set you back 5000 Yen. There was a large yield this year so they were able to get some at a good price to make a wine with. This wine has beautiful aromatics: it is grapey and rich. The palate is vivid and just off dry with amazing precision and focus. Muscatty but with freshness and purity. 90/100