Grace Gris de Koshu 2011

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This week, I’m talking about the Grace Winery, situated in Yamanashi, the principal wine-growing region of Japan. The winery was founded in 1923 and took inspiration for its name from the Three Graces of ancient mythology.

Strictly speaking, the Greeks had the Charities (Χάρις) and the Romans the Graces (Gratiae.) As the story goes, these three minor goddesses of charm, good humour and abundance were the daughters of Zeus and the mermaid Eurynome. They appear frequently in Greek art and literature (from Homer to Pausanias) and the Renaissance (e.g. Botticelli and Raphael.)

At the Grace Winery, the Chief Winemaker is Ayana Misawa. A fun and bubbly young lady in her early 30s, who is the fifth generation of her family to work on the estate. Incidentally, and despite her young years, she has worked in vineyards on five different continents (South America, Europe, Australia, South Africa and obviously, in Japan.)

The label claims that since its foundation in 1923, Grace Winery has been “cultivating its own grapes respecting the bio-environmental cause and the grapes’ natural requirements.” However, I would not underestimate the impact of Ayana’s significant changes in recent years, namely identifying higher altitude vineyards and reducing yields in order to increase the quality of the resulting fruit. 

The indigenous Koshu grape takes pride of place here at the Grace Winery, making up a very large percentage of their overall harvest, but they also have a very small amount of more common varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

Just as a quick aside – despite being vitis vinifera, the Koshu grape was (and is) still most widely perceived in Japan as a table grape variety. Curious, no?

So, with no further ado, here are my tasting notes for the Grace Gris de Koshu 2011, 12%.

A light, crisp wine, rounded at first but developing a marked acidity. This brings a nice touch of freshness to the finish. There is a little peppery spice which hits the palette alongside the pronounced citrus zest. It is delicate and charming in its refined elegance. The retro-olfactory notes of Granny Smith apple peel are also pleasant and refreshing.

The wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel. There is very little skin extraction, apparently because the peculiar skin of the Koshu grape (a pink-purple-gray colour) can be very bitter. 

A great summer wine. Perfect for apéritifs but I’m convinced there are also some stunning food pairings to be done with white fish or shellfish. Now, if only I had another bottle…

Price: €

Rating: ***

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