It started one summer day when I was on my way to yet another businessmen coffee. A few steps from the train station I bumped into Le Cordon Bleu.
For those of you who are not familiar, Le Cordon Bleu is a famous French culinary school, preparing the to-be chefs and offering various short courses, including one about wines. In Paris, I happened to live in the same arrondissement (i.e. neighbourhood) and of course, could not miss their evening wine courses for professionals and amateurs alike. You can imagine my surprise, when one of the first things I do Tokyo, is to bump right into the door of its Tokyo campus.
I took it as a hint that I should continue with the wine discovery and the next day ask my new Japanese acquaintances to take me to some place to try Japanese wine. Well, they do, they take me to a local sake place!
The simple truth is that when you say Japanese wine, Japanese people understand it as sake (= rice wine). After a couple of such go-outs, I was becoming desperate, not sake, I said, I want to try wine, real wine from grapes, you know?
Finally, it worked and I got to taste Japanese wines.
Local wine production in Japan has started in the 2nd half of the 19th century as a symbol of westernization and modernization, yet until quite recently there have been no laws or regulations for the wine production and even Japanese viewed local wine as nothing more than grape juice with a kick. Since 70s and 80s local wine-making skill level and a number of western style wineries has been gradually increasing and since 2002 there has been even competitions focusing on Japanese wines made using 100% Japanese grapes only. If you would like to plan a winery visit for you travel, you may want to check the following website.
Wine industry is largely dominated by a few major players: Suntory, Sapporo, and Kirin through its Mercian Corporation unit. The latter’s Château Mercian label is possibly the most available brand of Japanese wine.
Now, how do you judge if you like, don’t like, or love it?
Once in another wine tasting, the presenter asked the group, why do we say “like” for some things and “love” for the others? What is the difference? You can love the wine, but most likely would only like your neighbour (of course, exceptions are possible). One of the guys in the group had an answer: “Like” is for evening, “Love” is for life, he explained.
So, while you may or may not like Japanese wine (I will leave for you to try and decide), or you may believe that very few things are for life in general, may Love remain the one thing always worth a toast. Cheers!