Wine of the week: the otherworldly silkiness of Japanese koshu

Japan’s koshu grape is a hard one to love, but this fascinating wine has an otherworldly silkiness, says Matthew Jukes.

2018 Grace, Koshu Private Reserve, Yamanashi, Japan £20.95, thewhiskyexchange.com

This is the first time that I have felt moved to write up a koshu in this column. Japan’s most famous grape is a hard one to love. I have attended annual koshu tastings for a good few years and I have always felt rather depressed at the gallons of innocuous, feeble, hollow wines which are seemingly prized by koshu lovers. Water white, mildly soapy, short and dilute, this is a style of white wine that apparently goes beautifully with sushi and other Japanese fare and yet I cannot think of a wine style less capable of handling soy sauce, wasabi, teriyaki and other accompaniments to this heavenly style of cuisine.

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Koshu tend to be expensive too and some, can you believe it, are oaked – this is a very delicate white grape which struggles with lees contact let alone the influence of a macho oak barrel! Anyway, I have remained open-minded and this year both my featured wine and also the 2018 Grace Koshu Kayagatake (£21.99, selfridges.com) passed muster, along with the 2019 vintages of both wines, given that they both possessed a lot more character than the other wines on show and also that I could imagine myself ordering a bottle in a restaurant.

With a flavour not unlike a feather-light albariño and with an otherworldly silkiness to the touch, these are fascinating wines. Stick to the Grace winery for the time being though – the others are far too feeble to warrant a second glance.

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