WTN: Japanese and Irish wines

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WTN: Japanese and Irish wines

Postby Otto » Tue Jun 20, 2006 7:18 am

We started off with a couple of whites from the Koshu-grape

Grace Koshu, Misawa Winery, 2004

A nutty nose, almost almondy, white tea, and even mineral and slightly petrolly! Complex and elegant. The palate is ripely fruity, high in ripe acidity, and a finish of Riesling-like citrussiness. Lovely stuff!

Koshu, Chateau Mercian, 1999

Obviously sees too much oak: wood and butter on the nose. The palate is slightly sweet, with limpid fruit, a touch of smoke and is smothered in oak. Not for me please. I'll take my Koshu unoaked.

Koshu Barrel Fermented, Chateau Mercian, 2004

Yuck. Butter.

Kochu Kiiroka, Chateau Mercian, 2005

A very pungent nose of sea-breeze, salty minerality, citrussy - seems almost like an Albariño with a few Muscadetty notes - lovely stuff. THe palate is again high in acidity, with lots of refreshing citrus notes, minerality, and good fruit to balance it all out.

Verdict: Koshu kicks ass when unoaked! I love the two unoaked expamples and would gladly buy cases of each if only they could be found.

Then we had a couple reds
Shinshu Komagahara Yamabudo Sauvignon, Hombo Winery, 2004

A funny blend of the native Yamabudo and Cabernet Sauvignon. The colour is purple. The nose is soft, plummy, confected, with raspberry jam. The palate is sipmle and confected also. Not worth my time.

Merlot, Izutsu Winery, 2000

Flawed. Exhaust fumes on the nose. Tart and shrill on the palate. Almost like vinegar.

Nagano Merlot American-oak matured, Chateau Mercian, 1999

Yikes! Spends 48 months in new American oak. But I guess the people at Ch Mercian know what they are doing because this is a great wine! A nose of chocolate, smoke, earth, red berries, slightly oxidative in style, but with great fruit. The palate is likewise a bit oaky still and oxidative, with fine sharp and almost volatile acidity, lots of fruit. There were Merlot's typical chocolatey and earthy and darkly fruity notes also, but if I were given this blind I would say it's an old style Spanish red. In fact I commented during the tasting that this is like a poor man's Vega Sicilia - there were so many similarities to the Vega Sicilia 1989 that we had tasted recently. The cost at 30 euros is also much nicer than with Vega Sicilia. A very personal wine.

And then a dessert wine:
Niagara, Izutsu Winery, 2003

Strawberry and peach yoghurt on the nose with a prominent note of Jasmin! Almost funky on the nose! I love it. The palate is very sweet, again with a pronounced Jasmin taste, finely acidic and very long and pretty damn tasty though I've never had anything remotely like it!


And what a would a tasting be without some interesting blind wine?
Thomas Walk Vineyards (Kinsale, Ireland) Amurensis Walk 2004

The lable had the words "rogha gacha dighe". Anyone know their meaning?

From the noble grape variety of Amurensis - apparently this strain was developed in the Himalayas; others are from Siberia. Sweet strawberry on the nose but the palate was fully dry, but also very strawberryish, a bit peppery. I thought this was a dry Brachetto. Simple, but clean.

Chateau de Jau Talon Rouge 2000 (Côtes du Roussillon Villages)
Shit, floral, earthy and with over-ripe strawberry. Nice apart from the overripe aspect. The palate is juicy, a bit acidic, fairly tannic but soft. Nice enough; too juicy though. I did guess this as S. French but that's all.

Nice evening!
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Re: WTN: Japanese and Irish wines

Postby Paul B. » Tue Jun 20, 2006 11:43 am

Otto Nieminen wrote:Niagara, Izutsu Winery, 2003

Strawberry and peach yoghurt on the nose with a prominent note of Jasmin! Almost funky on the nose! I love it. The palate is very sweet, again with a pronounced Jasmin taste, finely acidic and very long and pretty damn tasty though I've never had anything remotely like it!

Otto, many thanks for this amazing TN. As you probably know, Niagara here is of course our native American Vitis labrusca grape by the same name - the one responsible for Welch's White Grape Juice and my yearly homemade wines. I make mine not as a dessert wine, though, but as a bone-dry aromatic sipper.

You are 100% correct with your descriptor - jasmine is one of the classic aromas of Niagara, the others tending to be acacia, candied lemon and musk.
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Re: WTN: Japanese and Irish wines

Postby Otto » Tue Jun 20, 2006 3:11 pm

Paul B. wrote:
Otto Nieminen wrote:Niagara, Izutsu Winery, 2003

Strawberry and peach yoghurt on the nose with a prominent note of Jasmin! Almost funky on the nose! I love it. The palate is very sweet, again with a pronounced Jasmin taste, finely acidic and very long and pretty damn tasty though I've never had anything remotely like it!

Otto, many thanks for this amazing TN. As you probably know, Niagara here is of course our native American Vitis labrusca grape by the same name - the one responsible for Welch's White Grape Juice and my yearly homemade wines. I make mine not as a dessert wine, though, but as a bone-dry aromatic sipper.

You are 100% correct with your descriptor - jasmine is one of the classic aromas of Niagara, the others tending to be acacia, candied lemon and musk.


Interesting - I think a totally dry Niagara would be fun to try! Acacia I didn't find, candied lemon and musk were there certainly, but jasmine was prominent. Really interesting stuff. Now I'd like to find an American example. And, of course, it would be nice to try other hybrids - from what I've read and heard Baco seems one I might like.
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Re: WTN: Japanese and Irish wines

Postby Thomas » Wed Jun 21, 2006 8:22 am

I knew Paul would jump at the mention of Niagara.

Paul, you know of course that the grape is a hybrid--Cassady and Concord--and not a native. In fact, Cassady might have had vinifera in its line.
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Re: WTN: Japanese and Irish wines

Postby Paul B. » Wed Jun 21, 2006 10:17 am

Niagara is indeed a hybrid, but it's a native hybrid because of its considerable labrusca parentage. Even Concord has some residual vinifera in its makeup.

Another way to think of Niagara as native is the fact that the grape was hybridized right there in New York, unlike so many of the French hybrids that were created in France using imported riparia material.
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Re: WTN: Japanese and Irish wines

Postby Thomas » Wed Jun 21, 2006 3:47 pm

Ah well, Paul:

a hybrid is a construct--a native is indigenous; not much wiggle room.
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Re: WTN: Japanese and Irish wines

Postby Paul B. » Wed Jun 21, 2006 4:00 pm

Then what would you call a grape that hybridized naturally from two native species? Some believe Norton to be an aestivalis x Catawba hybrid. I say that if the cross took place here, than the grape has a fundamental connection to its place of origin. Pinotage, while not a hybrid, certainly is rightly associated with South Africa, because that's where the variety first originated. So it is for me with Niagara, because there was no Niagara grape before it came to be in Niagara County.
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Re: WTN: Japanese and Irish wines

Postby Thomas » Wed Jun 21, 2006 7:06 pm

Paul B. wrote:Then what would you call a grape that hybridized naturally from two native species? Some believe Norton to be an aestivalis x Catawba hybrid. I say that if the cross took place here, than the grape has a fundamental connection to its place of origin. Pinotage, while not a hybrid, certainly is rightly associated with South Africa, because that's where the variety first originated. So it is for me with Niagara, because there was no Niagara grape before it came to be in Niagara County.


I agree--a hybrid may be associated with, may have a connection to, but is not necessarily a native.
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Re: WTN: Japanese and Irish wines

Postby Jenise » Thu Jun 22, 2006 12:19 pm

Otto, I bought a Grace Koshu last year and took it to lunch with Bill Spohn. Here's Bill's note on it:

2004 Grace Vineyard Koshu Cuvee Denis Dubourdieu – a wine made in Katsunuma Japan from a Japanese vinifera grape called Koshu – couldn’t get much tougher to guess than that!! Some herbal notes and spiciness in the nose, but then light and hollow with a bit of citrus at the (short) end. A novelty. Now I can add one country to my list of (grape) wine experience!

My notes were much more damning, filled as they were with angst over my having wasted $19 on a wine that tasted like acidulated water. The notes from the importer, however, were much more like yours experience. I'm suddenly wondering if we had one of those mysteriously corked wines where there's no obvious taint, just a lot of missing flavors. I have another bottle in the cellar (I was so optimistic!), which it suddenly occurs to me might be better off sacrificed to finding out than saved.
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Re: WTN: Japanese and Irish wines

Postby Otto » Thu Jun 22, 2006 3:40 pm

Jenise, one question. Do you and Bill love Muscadet? Albariño? The two unoaked Koshus had similar features. Herbs and spiciness on the nose I'll buy; light on the palate, but intense - not hollow -, and a fairly long finish. IMO not only a novelty but a dashed fine wine. I'm really not at all certain from Bill's and your note whether your's was a slightly off bottle or whether it is our palates that are so different. When you do open the other bottle, please do report back!
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Re: WTN: Japanese and Irish wines

Postby Bill Spohn » Thu Jun 22, 2006 4:43 pm

Otto Nieminen wrote:Jenise, one question. Do you and Bill love Muscadet? Albariño? The two unoaked Koshus had similar features. Herbs and spiciness on the nose I'll buy; light on the palate, but intense - not hollow -, and a fairly long finish. IMO not only a novelty but a dashed fine wine. I'm really not at all certain from Bill's and your note whether your's was a slightly off bottle or whether it is our palates that are so different. When you do open the other bottle, please do report back!


I am a big fan of Muscadet, Albarino, Savenierres......and the Koshu was a poor wine.

I look forward to hearing about Jenise' other bottle - we may well have had a spoiled bottle (I kind of figured that like hybrid wines it was hard to tell the difference bwteen good and bad....)

PS - Jenise - no need to taste that other bottle within the next 24 hours.....(bring something good instead ;-) Just kidding, you almost always do.
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Re: WTN: Japanese and Irish wines

Postby Jenise » Thu Jun 22, 2006 5:14 pm

you almost always do.


Best as I can recall the only dud I ever brought was this Koshu--and then I had the 99 Alzinger Gruvee along for immediate replacement. Nope, no Koshu tomorrow; got tomorrow's wine all picked out. But I agree with you, the Koshu's insufficiency wasn't an eye-of-the-beholder issue, it was just lousy wine.
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