The Father of Japanese Wines and His Winery in Joetsu, Niigata

Chubu Food Joetsu 2019.08.30
Now if you look around Japan, you will find approximately 300 wineries. But like any other, there is always the first one who started. Let's take a look at this not-so-known winery in Joetsu, Niigata.

Iwanohara Vineyard in Joetsu

In Niigata at a town called Joetsu in the district of Kitagata, there is a winery.

This winery called Iwanohara Vineyard is one of the early places in Japan that started making grapes for wine.

Dating back to 1895 with Zenbei starting grape farming in his back yard, this winery has kept its passion for winemaking.

This is a short story of the winery and the man who spent his life on winemaking.

Zdenbei Kawakami a man who spent his life on Japanese wines.

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Zenbei was born in 1868 as a first child to the Kawakami family, a well-known landlord of the area. 
Since he lost his father at the age of 7, he was forced to be the head of the family.
In 1882 Young Zenbei was sent to Tokyo at the age of 17 to study at Keio-Gijuku, the former name of Keio University.  In 1890, he started learning about wine.
Back then, Japan had only been producing wines for just over two decades. 

Most of the companies struggled to survive as many did not have sufficient knowledge of winemaking and preservation techniques.

More importantly, the majority of the Japanese people back then did not appreciate wine. 

Five years later, Zenbei meets Tatsunori Tsuchiya, the first man who brought back the grape farming and winemaking skills from France.
Zenbei learnt the skills from him and first started farming grapes in his back yard.

Zenbei made good use of the cold climate of Joetsu and developed his own way of growing grapes and method of fermenting them into wine. He even made his own kind of grapes with selective breeding.

One of the grapes are called "Muscat Bailey A" and still commonly used for Japanese red wines.
 
He even presented 22 different kinds of grapes at an academic conference in 1940 at the age of 72.
His studies on grape farming were even given an award from the Japan Prize of Agricultural Science in 1941 and until he passed away in 1944 he kept on studying about winemaking.
His wine cellar remains in good condition and is still in use at the winery, producing the best wines in the area.

One of the red wines from their major brand range called "Miyukibana" was even served at the Osaka G20 summit this year.
If you're interested in their wines and are over the legal age in your country, visit their official website for further details.

Oh, and the APA Resort Joetsu Myoko, where you can see the beautiful sunflowers and illumination event is in the same Joetsu region of Niigata. Why not visit both while you're there?

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