As a New Zealander, we are always after a bargain. In Yamanashi there are many and if you’re after a day to sample some of Japans best wines at a unheralded price read on.
If your getting off the JR Chuo Line from Tokyo look directly over at the first hill and you will see a building shining like a bald mans head in summer time. Get into a taxi with will take 5 minutes to get to paradise. Welcome to Budo no Oka (Grape Hill), a marketplace and tasting centre for a huge array of Yamanashi wine.
At the front counter pay 1100yen then saunter downstairs into the cellar where you will start smiling more than when you tell your younger brother Santa isn’t real. Most of the year you will have a free reign on 2 rows of 20 casks each with 7 to 8 bottles of wine to try. During Autumn there are also new season releases, they will open up another hallway to try out all these fresh new varieties.
On each table you will notice that many of the wines have gold, silver and bronze award stickers. If you are not aiming to try every single wine available, go with the stickers, they have won awards for a good reason. Lance Armstrong wasn’t involved with these wines in any way so you have no reason to doubt them.
The first line when you walk in has numerous Koshu grape wines, Koshu grapes are local to the Katsunuma region which are distinctly lighter and sweeter in flavour. This makes these wines very different when trying to compare between New Zealand and Australian white wine. The further you get down the row, the sweeter they become until you reach liqueurs.
Instead of following around in order, head straight up the second row to the red wines and work your way back down. With the grapes being so sweet in Yamanashi and the climate humid, red wines are yet to make their mark. There are some that perfectly match Japanese cuisine but on the whole they are a work in progress. I have no doubt in a few years it will be a much stronger product with the hard work that is going on in the background.
By the time you are ready to call it quits or asked to leave like the ‘All you can eat’ Pizza Hut that disappeared in New Zealand, don’t forget to head outside and saviour the view of the Yamanashi basin. You can plan your next stop or decide that the day is still early and head back to the cellar to continue enjoying teaching your liver a lesson.