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Danish cherry wine leaves no sour taste at Cella Masumi

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It’s difficult to leave Cella Masumi, the tasting room and specialty shop adjacent to Miyasaka Brewing Company in Nagano Prefecture, without a bag full of treats.

The space is a seductive example of contemporary Japanese design that encourages lingering. In addition to showcasing the Masumi sake that has made the brewery famous, the shop features artisanal ceramics and drinking vessels, plus a selection of local food products.

When I visited a few months ago, I was surprised to find among the fuki (butterbur) miso from Nagano City and the candied kumquats from Chiba Prefecture, a few bottles of Frederiksdal Rancio cherry wine from Denmark.

It was a random discovery. In 2011, former winemaker Anne Christensen had come to Miyasaka brewery to try her hand at sake making, bringing along Frederiksdal’s owner, Harald Krabbe. The staff at the brewery had liked the cherry wine so much they decided to sell it at Cella Masumi.

I’d tried Frederiksdal five years ago in Copenhagen and had been struck by its uniqueness. Prior to tasting it, I’d viewed fruit wines with skepticism. Frederiksdal, however, is made with Danish sour cherries that give the wine a firm acidic structure and wonderful balance.

The story of the winery had also intrigued me: Krabbe is a farmer on a mission to save indigenous Danish fruit trees. His family had been growing crops such as wheat and barley, but when he took over the business he wanted to change the focus of the production, which had concentrated on growing large quantities of staples. Krabbe is also interested in permaculture — the practice of planting symbiotic species and developing agricultural ecosystems — and he sees the 45 hectares of cherry trees on his family’s property as a chance to experiment with agroforestry.

Sour cherries are intensely tart and the orchards that had been planted by Krabbe’s father 23 years ago yield small, red-black berries that are nearly one-third stone. In the past, the fruit had been used to make juice — a low-profit enterprise for such a labor-intensive crop. “There are around 600-700 hectares of these trees left in Denmark but that number is decreasing because of costs,” Krabbe tells me.

In 2005, he met journalist Morten Brink Iwersen and chef Jan Friis-Mikkelsen, who persuaded him to try making a Banyuls-style dessert wine. After a monthlong research trip through Europe, he was convinced.

“Looking after fruit and then putting it into a bottle, tasting the terroir — this is what I wanted to do,” he says.

With no formal training as a vintner, Krabbe started his winery in 2006 and made 3,000 bottles of cherry wine. Today, Frederiksdal makes five varieties of wine and liqueur, producing 200,000 bottles a year.

The Rancio is my favorite. After fermentation, the wine is stored in large vessels on rooftops and exposed to direct light for two years. This technique gives the wine amazing complexity, with notes of fig and coffee underscoring the pure fruit flavors.

Ever since I first tasted it, I’d wanted to find it again. I have, in the unlikeliest of places — delicious serendipity.

For more information, visit www.frederiksdal.com and www.cellamasumi.jp. Melinda Joe is a certified wine and sake professional. She blogs at http://tokyodrinkingglass. blogspot.com