AT A GLANCE:
THE BEST VINEYARD IN ASIA
Name of wine estate: Château Mercian Mariko Winery
Wine region: Nagano Prefecture
Standout points: Sipping Koshu on the terrace with views of Mount Tateshina and Mount Asama
Winemaker: Mitsuhiro Anzo
Wine style: Elegant cool-climate reds and whites – a combination of French varieties and local specialties Koshu and Muscat Bailey A.
Japanese wine takes root
The oldest established wine producer in Japan, Château Mercian has led the way in the emergence of Japanese wine on the world stage over the past 10-15 years, producing cool-climate-style wines of real elegance and distinction from three wineries: Katsunuma, Kikyogahara and Mariko. Opened in 2019, the Mariko Winery, on the outskirts of Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, is the most recent addition. For those seeking wine adventures off the beaten track, a visit to this immaculately presented winery and vineyards, with panoramic views of the verdant Jinba plateau, is highly recommended.
Koshu and more
The Mariko Vineyard extends to 30ha of vines planted at an altitude of 650m. Eight varieties are planted, principally Chardonnay and Merlot. Other varieties are Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Pinot Noir. Château Mercian Katsunuma Winery (in Yamanashi Prefecture) makes assemblage of adapted Japanese variety Koshu and the Japanese hybrid Muscat Bailey A with these European varieties. You can sample these international and exotic varieties on a range of guided tours. The Mariko Walking and Lunch Tour invites you on a gentle guided stroll through the extensive and well-presented vineyard area, where you can taste the wines while looking at the grape varieties they are made from. Often the bunches are protected from the elements by individual wax paper hats – a distinctive feature of Japanese viticulture.
Back at the winery, the Tasting Counter serves 10 varieties of wine by the glass, with a variety of snacks made from local ingredients. Savour a glass on the elegant terrace, while admiring the vineyards below and the view of Mount Tateshina and Mount Asama in the distance. An especially good time to make a visit would be mid-April to autumn, a time when in the nearby Ippongi Park, located on a hill overlooking the Mariko Vineyard, wonderful view can be seen including the winery and vineyard.