The Top In Japan Wineries You Must Visit

Japan is a land of captivating contrasts, where tradition seamlessly blends with innovation, and this unique blend of old and new is nowhere more evident than in its burgeoning wine industry. Nestled amidst the picturesque landscapes of this island nation, Japan’s vineyards have been steadily gaining international recognition for their exceptional wines. From the rolling hills of Hokkaido to the sunny slopes of Yamanashi, the best vineyards in Japan offer a captivating journey through the world of Japanese wine, where centuries of winemaking history intersect with a commitment to quality and a flair for experimentation. In this exploration, we will embark on a sensory voyage through some of the most renowned vineyards, discovering the terroir, grape varieties, and winemaking traditions that make Japan’s vineyards a hidden gem in the world of oenology. Join us as we uncork the stories and flavors of the best vineyards in Japan, where every glass of wine tells a tale of cultural richness and natural beauty.

Highly Rated Japanese Vineyards

  1. Kumamoto Winery

  2. Shimane Winery

  3. Hiruzen Winery

  4. Lumiere Winery

  5. Takeda Winery

  6. Château Mercian Mariko

* The wineries have been listed without a specific order.

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1. Kumamoto Winery

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In 1999, they established the winery in Kumamoto City. They started to produce wine with grapes from within the Kumamoto Prefecture, as well as entered into an arrangement for the contractual growing of grapes in Kikuka Town, Yamaga City in the northern part of Kumamoto Prefecture. The winery has been receiving various awards, especially with the core brand, Kikuka Wine. They will continue to cooperate with the local community closer than ever before and challenge themselves with the production of world-class wine.

They do not only provide wine, but likewise a lifestyle further enriching the lives of customers through the incorporation of wine into their daily lives, they do not want to be close to the clients only on birthdays and special occasions, but also to be on everyone’s table every day.

2. Shimane Winery

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The origin of the Shimane Winery dates back to 1934. After many years from there, the Shimane Winery opened in its current location in 1961. Until then, the grapes that were the raw material for wine were centered on Muscat Bailey, a canton of raw Delaware and contract cultivation, but for the production of higher quality wines. The Yokota Vineyard has a high altitude, and the average temperature is about the same as the recently attracting wine region, Nagano Prefecture.

The Shimane Winery in Izumo City is a sightseeing factory at which Shimane Wine and other original brands are manufactured. With the fastidious aim of providing high-quality wine, the company has even opened its own original farms. Within the factory, visitors can observe the manufacturing process for free as well as sample around ten different kinds of seasonal wines. At the Barbecue House, patrons can have a taste of soft and juicy Shimane beef paired together with wine, and in the sales corner wine-flavored soft-serve ice cream and croquettes made with Shimane. Visitors can also try their hand at making their own unique and original wine, complete with a label design of their own choosing.

3. Hiruzen Winery

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Hiruzen Winery, located on Hiruzen Highland in Maniwa City, Okayama Prefecture, produces and sells wine made with home-grown mountain grapes. The wild vines high in iron and polyphenols are a rare variety that are good for health and treasured by the locals. Inside the winery, visitors can see where the wine is stored and how it is made from behind the glass. As well as a shop that sells wine and cheese, there is also a bar and cafe where visitors can try some Hiruzen cheese with a glass of wine. The wine available at Hiruzen Winery is made with grapes that only grow in Japan and has won multiple awards even in Japanese wine competitions.

Being committed to produce the best wine year after year, they never shrink from the difficulties to make some changes to the winemaking process, such as temperature, humidity, fermentation… They believe that their commitment leads to a solid experience and makes the wine fragrant and inspiringly tasty. Among 1,000 wild vines on Hiruzen plateau, they have been selecting and cultivating trees bearing grapes with high sugar content and low acidity, for over 10 years.

4. Lumiere Winery

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Established in 1885, Lumiere is a distinguished family-owned winery with a rich history spanning over 130 years, located in Yamanashi prefecture, the most famous and historical region for Japan’s wine production. Lumiere has continuously pursued excellence in winemaking, successfully producing high-quality wines that have earned accolades in European top competitions since 1967. These award-winning wines are prominently featured in their restaurant and shop, where patrons can savor the results of Lumiere’s dedication and expertise.

Surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of Yamanashi’s mountains and rivers, Lumiere’s vineyards are situated in an alluvial fan area with soil predominantly composed of decomposed granite. This unique soil composition, coupled with meticulous cultivation practices, including grass cover crops and a no-tillage approach, allows Lumiere to bring out the true character of the grapes, ensuring that their wines reach their utmost potential. From hand-harvesting the grapes to utilizing a gravity-flow system in winemaking, Lumiere’s commitment to quality and tradition is evident in every aspect of their winemaking process, making them a cornerstone of Japan’s wine heritage.

5. Takeda Winery

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Located in the picturesque landscape of a sun-soaked hill beneath Yamagata’s Zao Mountain Range and near Kaminoyama Hot Spring Village, Takeda Winery has flourished since its inception in 1920. Guided by the principle that “Good wine comes from good grapes,” they dedicated two decades to meticulously preparing the soil and cultivating grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay, typically reserved for high-end European wines. Their 15-hectare farm employs natural farming practices with minimal pesticides and no chemical fertilizers.

Takeda Winery’s commitment to excellence extends throughout the winemaking process, from hand-picked harvests to precise brewing, aging in French oak barrels, bottling, and shipping. Their acclaimed Domaine Takeda series, including Chateau Takeda (red), Chateau Takeda (white), and Domaine Takeda [Cuvee] Yoshiko, a sparkling wine produced using the Champagne method, has garnered praise from wine enthusiasts and sommeliers nationwide. Additionally, their cherished Zao Star Wine, crafted from locally sourced Delaware and Muscat Berry A grapes with high sugar content, continues to delight wine aficionados, offering versatility when enjoyed chilled or at a slightly warmer temperature. Rooted in Yamagata’s unique climate, Takeda Winery’s wines are not just accompaniments to everyday home-cooked meals; they add sophistication to a range of stylish dining experiences.

6. Château Mercian Mariko

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Mariko Winery, a new addition to one of Japan’s oldest winemaking companies, Château Mercian, offers panoramic views of vineyards and volcanoes from its upper terrace. From the inward perspective, visitors can observe the production room and cellar through windows, and rails running along the ceiling of the reception area feed new wine into the tanks by gravity. The grapes are separated according to variety and which of Mariko vineyards’ 16 plots they came from, and finally arrive at one of two cellars differing in temperature, to be optimally matured.

Mariko Winery, opened in 2019, is an exciting new venture from Château Mercian, which has roots in Japan’s first private wine company, Dai-Nihon Yamanashi Budoushu-Gaisha, founded in 1877. In addition to Mariko, the company owns two other sites in Katsunuma and Kikyogahara. The Mariko vineyards and winery are the newest additions and have already gained a reputation for producing vibrant, perky wines from French and native Japanese varieties, including white, rosé, and red wines.

The best vineyards in Japan offer a delightful fusion of tradition, innovation, and a deep respect for nature. These wineries not only produce exceptional wines but also provide a window into the country’s rich cultural heritage and its dedication to crafting high-quality products. With each bottle, visitors and connoisseurs alike can savor the essence of Japan’s unique terroir, the dedication of its winemakers, and the beauty of its landscapes. As these vineyards continue to gain international acclaim, they stand as a testament to the growing global recognition of Japan’s place in the world of fine wine, and they beckon all to embark on a sensory journey through their lush vine-covered hills and sun-kissed valleys.

* The wineries have been listed without a specific order.

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FAQs The Best Japanese Wineries

1. Is Japan known for its wine production?

While Japan may be more renowned for its sake and whisky, the country has a growing and respected wine industry. Japanese wineries produce a variety of wines, including both traditional and innovative styles.

2. Where are the main wine regions in Japan?

The primary wine regions in Japan are Yamanashi, Hokkaido, Nagano, and Yamagata. Yamanashi, in particular, is often called the "Napa Valley of Japan" and is famous for its winemaking heritage.

3. What grape varieties are commonly grown in Japanese vineyards?

Japanese wineries often grow a range of grape varieties. Some of the most common include Koshu, Muscat Bailey A, and Chardonnay. Koshu is a unique Japanese grape that produces a distinctive white wine.

4. Do Japanese wineries offer wine tasting and tours?

Yes, many Japanese wineries welcome visitors and offer wine tastings, guided tours, and even wine-related events. It's a great way to learn about the winemaking process and sample Japanese wines.

5. Is Japanese wine different from European or American wines?

Japanese wines can have unique characteristics due to the country's terroir and winemaking methods. Some Japanese wines are known for their delicacy and elegance, which may differ from the bold flavors of some European or American wines.

6. How does Japanese wine pair with Japanese cuisine?

Japanese wines often complement the country's cuisine wonderfully. They can pair well with sushi, sashimi, tempura, and other Japanese dishes. The light and crisp nature of many Japanese wines works harmoniously with the flavors of Japanese food.

7. Are Japanese wines available internationally?

Yes, Japanese wines have gained recognition on the international stage, and some wineries export their products. You can find Japanese wines in specialty wine shops and restaurants in various countries.

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