Koshu wine teams with chateau to go global

by Kazumasa Koike

Kyodo News

Bottles of wine made from Koshu grapes will soon debut in Europe and the United States in a partnership between a Japanese winery and a French chateau.

Preparations are being made to market the Japanese wine early next year in France, Switzerland, Belgium and the U.S.

The wine will be sold under the Magrez Aruga Koshu label. The first two words represent the partners’ family names, while Koshu is a variety of grape as well as the name of the region where the Japanese winery is located.

The French partner is Bernard Magrez of Chateau Pape-Clement, which boasts 700 years of tradition. His Japanese counterpart is Yuji Aruga, 52, president of Katsunuma Winery Co. based in the town of Katsunuma in Yamanashi Prefecture’s Koshu region.

The partnership is the fruit of an approach made by the chateau early last year, when Aruga was told that wine admirers worldwide believe Koshu wine would receive high marks outside Japan.

The remark came at a time when Aruga was not satisfied with having his company’s products marketed only in Japan and wanted to make inroads abroad. His company’s wine won silver medals in 2003 and 2004 at an international winery contest held under the auspices of the Union de Oenologues de France.

Magrez’s chateau dispatched a winery expert to Aruga’s company and helped it make the wine bearing the new label. The chateau purchased 2,400 bottles of the wine.

Katsunuma is the site of a vineyard growing Koshu grapes on a gentle mountain slope. Koshu grapes are said to have originally been brought to Japan by official missions to China. Japan sent missions on 16 occasions from 630 to 894 to absorb Chinese culture.

Grapes have been grown for more than 1,200 years in the Koshu region, which has a suitable climate.

Aruga is particular about making wine from Koshu grapes.

Established in 1937, Aruga Winery is Japan’s top Koshu winemaker, with annual production totaling about 300,000 bottles. It uses grapes grown in its own 5.5-hectare vineyard in addition to grapes cultivated by farmers under contract.

Koshu grapes are low in sugar content compared with other varieties.

Aruga has attracted attention in the domestic wine industry for adopting a production method in which he freezes an undiluted solution and then condenses it in the process of making wine.

“I think the value of wine depends on how much the receiver is surprised and impressed by it and pleased to know it,” Aruga said. “I hope Koshu wine will captivate people around the world.”