Tasting some Japanese wines from the Hokkaido region

japanese wine hokkaido

Today I got to taste some Japanese wines, as part of a tasting for Yamamoto Akihiko’s www.winereport.jp publication.

These wines are all from Hokkaido, a relatively new wine region in the far north of Japan that is now the most important in the country. Because of global warming it’s now possible to plant vinifera varieties here, and the region is now the engine room of the natural wine movement in Japan. Recently, Domaine de Montille invested here. There are lots of small producers.

Kerner and Muller Thurgau are the most popular white varieties, while Pinot Noir and Zweigelt are the most popular reds. This was quite a varied tasting, but the best wines were really good.

Nikki Hills Hatsuyuki Kerner 2015
Really enticing smoky, stony nose with some citrus zest. The palate is fresh, linear and pure with some smoky minerality and lovely purity. It’s not excessively fruity, but there’s lots of lively, stony character and plenty of flavour. Transparent and beguiling. 91/100

Nikki Hills Hatsuyuki Kerner Late Harvest 2016
Showing some aromatic tangerine characters on the nose, this has a lovely, richly textured palate. It’s very pure with some sweetness, nicely balanced by good acidity. Off-dry and textural, with hints of melony richness as well as some citrus character. Lovely depth of flavour. 90/100

Nikki Hills Hatsuyuki Kerner Late Harvest 2015
Fresh and linear with lovely rich texture to the slightly sweet citrus fruit, with some spicy, mineral detail. Lovely purity here to this wine, which has nice tension between the sweetness and the high acidity. Quite mineral. 91/100

Nikki Hills Hatsuyuki Kerner Filterless 2016
This is really stony and detailed with lovely mineral undertones. There’s a purity to the lemony fruit, and also subtle smokiness. Really textured and full favoured without being very fruity. Beautifully poised. 92/100

Nikki Hills Hatsuyuki Kerner Filterless 2015
This is distinctive, with very stony, lemony characters and high acidity. Concentrated and lively with lovely freshness and transparency. Has lovely zippy brightness but also some richer notes in the background. Finishes zesty and lemony. 91/100

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Hokkaido Wine Company Tsurunuma Gewuztraminer 2015
Fresh, floral nose has some table grape but also some rose petal perfume. The palate is light and pretty with a hint of marzipan and nice pear, grape and lychee characters. Slight hollow midpalate and a short finish, but still very attractive. 87/100

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Hokkaido Wine Company Hokkaido Kerner 2016
Really smoky, spicy, mineral nose. The palate is stony and mineral with an attractive savoury edge to the lemony fruit. It’s very stony and a bit spiky, with a really pleasing mineral dimension and not too much fruit, but no lack of flavour. 88/100

Matsubara Nouen Muller Thurgau 2015
Cheap-looking packaging with a short-skirt screwcap with a plastic liner. Soft, rounded with with some honey and nut characters, as well as a bit of table grape. Intriguing with a really interesting texture. Quite soft, but with a nice honeyed finish. 86/100

Matsubara Nouen Muller Thurgau 2016
Fruity and appealing with light, supple grape and pear fruit with a hint of sweetness. Easy drinking and fruity with low acidity. Clean and well made. 86/100

Hokkaido Wine Company Otaru Jyozo Naiyagara 2016
Really distinctive nose. Shows lively matchstick reduction alongside sweet, jelly-like fruit. Off-dry and grapey on the palate with grape jelly notes and some expressive spicy characters. Unusual stuff: I don’t know what to make of it. 83/100

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Hokkaido Wine Company Zweigelt 2015
Juicy and bright with fresh red cherries and plums. A lovely fresh lighter-style red with real gluggability. Light, pure and fruity with a bit of savoury grip on the finish. 88/100

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Domaine Mont Mont Blanc de Noir 2015
Pinot Noir. Cloudy yellow colour with a hint of pink. Sweet, nutty nose with apples and cherries. Lovely texture on the palate with good acidity supporting pear and citrus fruit, with some spicy, mineral bite. There’s lovely weight here in the mouth. A thought-provoking, beautiful naturally made wine of real appeal. 92/100

Hakodate Kerner ‘100’ NV
Supple, fresh and grapey. Medium sweet and clean, showing a little stony spiciness. Well balanced. 84/100

Domaine Takahiko Soga Blanc de Noir Nana-Tsu-Mori 2014
Pinot Noir. Orange/copper colour. Sweetly aromatic nose of ripe apples, nuts and lemons. Powerful palate with high acidity and bold flavours of baked apple, spice, raisin and nuts. Has some lemony acidity. There’s even a faint hint of marmalade here. A powerful wine made in an overtly oxidative style, showing a lot of personality. 91/100

Nikki Hills Rosé 2016
Full pink/red colour. Fresh, supple and textured with some red currant jelly characters. Has some fruit sweetness and a softness to the palate, but also nice balance and a really appealing fruity personality. Delicious weight. 89/100

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Domaine Atsushi Suzuki Tomo Rouge 2015
Lifted aromatics of spicy red cherries and herbs, with some earthy hints. The slightly elevated volatile acidity adds a hint of sweetness and a subtle balsamic tang to the spicy, vivid cherry and berry fruit. Interesting tannic structure here too. Ripe, detailed and appealing, and very drinkable. Not a perfect wine, but an interesting one. Concentrated and intense. 91/100

Hakotate Pinot Noir 2016
Pale in colour. Really light and elegant, with fresh red cherries and tangy lemony acidity, as well as just a bit of tannic grip. Shows attractive, simple fruit with a juicy finish. Good purity of flavour. 88/100

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Domaine Takahiko Pinot Noir Nana-Tsu-Mori 2014
Really unusual. There’s a slight green herbal twist to this, with some earthy savouriness. Has pronounced lemony acidity and some undergrowth hints, as well as juicy red cherry fruit. Complex and quite natural, and a bit extreme, but lots to admire here if you are feeling brave. 90/100

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