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.

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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