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Hannibal's Encyclopaedia - The Koshu Grape

The Koshu grape is rarely seen outside the islands of Japan, possibly because shipping from there is pretty pricey.  

It is recognized as the most important grape variety native to Japan.  First records suggest that it was developed from grapes travelling from Asia and China back in the 14th century.   More recently (in the last 130 years), it has been used for making wine. 

Grown primarily in the Yamanashi prefecture (west of Tokyo), where it grows on well-drained volcanic soils on the foothills of Mount Fuji.  Koshu has to cope with an unbelievably extreme climate - very hot summers as well as destructive monsoons during the growing season.  

Unsurprisingly, nature provides Koshu with thick skins to weather those storms, which in turn give the grapes a little additional tannic characteristic.   But more surprisingly is man's intervention in helping stave off too much rain (potential rot) to fall on the grape by covering each of the bunches with a type of protective umbrella!  Hugely labour-intensive, but very effective and necessary.   

In most cases, Koshu is grown on independent pockets of land, measuring less than 0.25 hectares - tiny!  The vines are grown on a Pergola training system - high enough to walk under the leaf canopy, protecting the grapes from ground frost and too much moistness.  There are now about 80 wineries in the Yamanashi prefecture, accounting for over 25% of Japanese wine production.

Interestingly, the grapes are pink in appearance, though none of this skin pigment is imparted into the wine.

Koshu wines are deliciously pure, fresh and delicate.  Drinking at an early age is best.  They make perfect accompaniments to sushi, but will equally stand up well to more robust dishes, such as duck or lamb.

Click here to discover Hannibal's Koshu wine.



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