Nagano wine region, Japan (3) – Hyashi Nouen

Jamie Goode's wine blog jamiegoode

Hayashi Nouen is one of the big players in the Nagano region. Founded in 1911, they have 45 hectares of vines of their own and contract a further 30. In total, the production is 800 000 bottles. Their brand name is Goichi.

This 60-year old Merlot vine is the oldest Merlot in Japan

One of the varieties they work with is Ryugan, which is a Chinese variety that looks similar to Koshu, with big, pale pink berries and huge bunches. It has higher acidity and sugar than Koshu, and so Hayashi would like to increase the plantings of Ryugan, but the farmers growing it aren’t keen.

Takashi Kikuchi

We tasted with chief winemaker Takashi Kikuchi. The wines here are consistently good, and one – a new Merlot from a high-altitude site – is exceptional.

Hyashi Estate Goichi Sauvignon Blanc 2016
All estate fruit. Crisp, clean and brightly aromatic with nice grassy pear fruit with some passionfruit lift. The palate is bright, a bit nettly and fruit-driven with a slightly smoky twist. Light and a little dilute and short on the finish, but nice enough. 85/100

Hyashi Estate Goichi Chardonnay 2015
Some contract fruit in this. Barrel-aged for eight months. Citrus with some pineapple, and good acidity. Quite pure and clean with nice fruitiness. Fruit forward style with a slightly bitter finish. Solid stuff. 86/100

Hyashi Estate Goichi Ryugan 2016
Chinese grape variety with a greyish pink skin, and huge clusters. Mineral and spicy with some smoky notes. Bright with good acidity and some pear and table grape fruity notes. Crisp and lively with a stony, mineral core: it’s not all about the fruit. 87/100

Hyashi Estate Goichi Merlot 2015
Estate and contract grown fruit, barrel aged for 14 months. Supple and bright with a juicy personality to the cherry and berry fruits. Supple and fresh with bright juicy cherry and berry fruit. Has a slightly grainy, grippy edge to it. Very drinkable and friendly. 88/100

Hyashi Kikyougahara Merlot Private Reserve 2014
100% estate grapes aged for 18 months in new oak. There’s a savoury, spicy, cedary edge to this wine with notes of gravel and tar, as well as dense, fresh raspberry and blackcurrant fruit. Good structure and brisk acidity keep this fresh and focused. Has some well integrated green notes. Juicy finish. 90/100

Hyashi Kakizawa Vineyard Merlot 2015
This is an as-yet unnamed wine. It is Merlot on VSP trellising from a cooler site at 800 m. First vintage is 2014, this is the second vintage, not released yet. Deeply coloured. Concentrated and fresh with subtle green notes and a lovely core of blackcurrant and cherry fruit. Very refined and structured with lovely weight and balance. 93/100

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