Nagano wine region, Japan (10) – Shinshu Takayama Winery

Jamie Goode's wine blog jamiegoode

The Takayama winery is an interesting project: it’s a collaboration between local vineyard owners (so in effect, a small co-op), with winemaker Eiichi Takano at the helm. He’s worked previously for Mercian, and has also experience in France. We visited with him and also Kazuaki Wajui, who is the director/president.

Eiichi and Kazuaki

The impressive winery was built in 2015, and is in the village of Takayama, which is high up in the valley, looking down towards Nagano City and the Chikuma River. We’re at 650 m altitude here, and the vineyards, which track an alluvial fan from the Matsukara river down from the mountain, begin at 400 metres and go all the way up to 850 metres, giving a diversity of climates.

Inside the modern, well-equipped winery

The first planting of vinfera in the village was Chardonnay in 1996, and the farmer was a contract grower for Mercian. Mercian and Suntory are two larger wineries who have made  Chardonnay with the name of the village on the label, and these won lots of awards, which got people interested in Takayama. The local government has been supportive of vineyard development, and from just 3 hectares in 2008, there are now 50 hectares, although the current productive vineyard is 40 hectares.

They expect the vineyard will expand further, and the number of the farmers has increased: there are currently 30 farmers, up from 13 when the venture began. There are two other wineries in the area, and soon the law will be changed so that only wineries using grapes and vinifying them in the area can use the name Takayama on the label.

2018 a community association was established for the local wine people to study and taste together. There are growers from all over Nagano and from outside, and even some people from Tokyo. There are 130 people in this association.

The wines are good, but I think better is yet to come. A sorting table might help for the Pinot Noir, which is showing more development than it should at this young stage in its life. Where notes are duplicated, the wines were tried on separate occasions on the trip.

Shinshu Takayama Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2016
80% first crop. First release from the winery. Has some chaptalization. Fresh and a bit flinty with a slight herby edge to the apple and pear fruit. Juicy and focused with some tangerine hints and a bit of lemon peel. Juicy and linear. 87/100

Shinshu Takayama Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Lighter style with some mineral and herb notes alongside the pear and citrus fruit. Lively acidity here. Attractive if a bit dilute. 86/100

Shinshu Takayama Winery Chardonnay 2016
70% first crop; 30% older vines fermented in new oak barrels. Fresh and focused with stylish pear, apple and white peach fruit. Has a subtle nuttiness with nice bright acidity. A direct, fresh style of Chardonnay with keen acidity. Tight and a bit closed. Midweight. 88/100

Pinot Noir 2017 tank samples

1 First crop Spicy and smoky with a slightly faded colour. Has some sweetness to the cherry fruit but also a savoury twist. A little bit funky.

2 From Akio Sato’s vineyard at 777 high altitude. Juicy and bright. Very raspberry like with high acidity. Has a savouriness to it. Grippy and quite challenging.

Shinshu Takayama Winery Merlot Cabernet 2016
Seven months in new oak. There’s a savoury, cedary edge to the attractive ripe black cherry and blackberry fruit. Hints of tar and spice, with a nice mouthfeel and a savoury twist to the palate. Showing some oak, but rounded and appealing with nice weight. 87/100

Shinshu Takayama Winery Merlot Cabernet 2016
Nice balance here with sweet, supple, textured red cherry and berry fruit. There’s a smooth mouthfeel, but at the moment the spicy vanilla oak is too high in the mix. Lots of potential though. 88/100

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