Don’t blame me, when this week’s interview leaves you longing for good wine and food. This week I had the opportunity to interview a top connoisseur: Del Cook. Having a background as a chef from Canada, his passion for food has brought him to Japan. In 2002 he has founded an eponymous restaurant in the heartland of rural Kansai, simply in the middle of historically protected rice stepfields. As this place focuses on blending Japanese sensibilities with a modern Western influence, I became very curious to hear more from an insider about Japanese wines.
Sibylle Ito: Japan is worldwide known as the country of Sake. Do you think there is really a market for local wine?
Del Cook: Yes. I put this question to Kohji Hoshiyama of Vin Passion and the following was his reply. Japanese food culture has adopted to a more globalized culture with people now eating less rice and more bread and pasta. Younger Japanese have an image that it is less cool to drink sake than wine. Also wine has less alcohol and is easier to consume for those with lower tolerances like women. Although Japanese wine’s market share is very small it is growing along with its rise in quality. Japanese white wine made from the native Koshu grape has great potential.
SI: Not being a gourmet, allow me a very basic question: Can you really combine wine with Japanese food?
DC: I asked my Sommelier friend Kagari Fukata to prepare a tasting of Japanese food of which she is an exceptional cook. For the tasting I purchased a set of Torivilla wines including 3 whites and 2 reds. Our tasting revealed that Toriivilla Blanc Cuvee Hideka with its crisp acidity and citrus flavours was an excellent match for Sushi, Sashimi and Grilled Sazai. Tempura, grilled fish, dashi and ginger were complimented best by Toriivilla Blanc Cuvee Tradition with its Bourgogne-like, silky texture and elegant apple-honey flavors. Both the Toriivilla Rouge and higher end Vintage Collection Cuvee Yuka Rouge are made from a Japanese grape called Black Queen. These wines combined smooth texture with flavours of stewed plums and spices. Perhaps they are most similar to Beaujolais wines and we found both paired well with the Miso Soup.
SI: Does Japanese wine have a unique taste?
DC: There is a unique taste to Japanese wine made from Koshu and Black Queen grapes, but especially so if the winemaker allows a sense of place or terroir to shine through. Torii villa Imamura produces just such wines using natural organic farming methods, gravity fed tank systems and non-interventionist wine making.
SI: Compared to other wines you know, what do you see as the strength of Japanese wines?
DC: If it is quality wine you want then I recommend visiting Torivilla-Imamura which is near Mount Fuji (http://www.toriivilla-imamura.com/). The winery is represented by Kohji Hoshiyama of http://www.vinpassionco.com/
Del thank you so much for taking all these special efforts to bring us closer to the uniqueness and strength of Japanese wine. Honestly I could not imagine that a soya sauce based cuisine can be combined with wine, furthermore with local wine. Your interview was for sure an eye opener for me.
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)