Nagano wine region, Japan (1) - Kido Winery

Akihito Kida, Kida Wines

This was a good start to my visits in Nagano prefecture, Japan. Akihito Kido was born in Aichi prefecture, and he studied winemaking and viticulture at the University of Yamanashi. He went there because he wanted to make wine, but hadn’t decided at that stage whether or not he’d establish his own winery. But in 2001 he began growing his own vines, starting with just 0.3 hectares.

Pergola-trained vineyard

Since then the vineyard has grown to 1.9 hectares. The vineyard is located in Shiojiri, in Nagano, and it’s at an altitude of 740 metres, which helps maintain the acidity in the grapes. Vines are grown on the traditional pergola system, but also some are grown with a vertically shoot positioned (VSP) canopy. Kido’s winery started in 2004, and with his high quality wines he’s widely thought to be one of the people who has stimulated the current momentum in proper Japanese wine.

In the cellar, stainless steel barrels are used for some of the whites: these allow lees contact but not oxygen

60% of Kido’s needs are supplied from his own vineyard, but he also buys in some grapes. Production is now at 25 000 bottles. Since 2006 he’s been fermenting some of the wines with wild yeast, and he now ferments all his red wines with wild yeasts.

The Kido winery

This region is typically associated with red wine, but Kido thinks there is a lot of potential for white grapes here, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.

Kido Autumn Colors 2017 Nagano, Japan
53% Merlot, 47% Muscat Bailey A. 5 months in barrel with 30% new. Merlot is fermented with wild yeast, Muscat Bailey A with cultured yeast. Fresh, pure and vital with lovely bright raspberry and cherry fruit. There’s a nice rounded character to the fruit here, and lovely acidity. A bit sappy with lovely juiciness and just a hint of meatiness (cured meat) under the fruit. I really like the freshness and the fruit-forward nature of this wine. Delicious stuff showing good purity. 88/100

Kido Private Reserve Chardonnay 2015 Nagano, Japan
This is a full yellow colour. 85% wild yeast, 15% cultured yeast, barrel fermented with 50% new oak. Very linear and correct with attractive citrus and pear fruit, with some pineapple richness. There’s some cedary spice here and fine toast from the barrel fermentation. Lovely acidity here with a hint of grapefruit spice and a slight nutty warmth on the finish. Lovely wine, and when it sheds the barrel character with a year or two more in bottle it will be great. I really like the acidity here. 91/100

Kido Private Reserve Pinot Gris 2016 Nagano, Japan
First vintage of this was 2009. In 2008 he pressed strongly and the colour turned red. This is a golden colour. Stainless steel barrel fermentation. Really distinctive nose with lanolin and apricot, some lemons and a bit of toast. So aromatic and expressive, showing some botrytis character. The palate is powerful with apricot, lemon and a hint of cabbage, as well as some fine spiciness. Such a delicious, textured, full-flavoured wine. 92/100

Kido Private Reserve Pinot Noir 2015 Nagano, Japan
He’s almost given up on Pinot Noir twice, but the years he was going to pull the vines up it turned out well. Until 2014 he used no whole cluster, but since then he has used 33% whole cluster (2014) and 40% (2015). Fermented separately, so the whole cluster was all whole cluster. Pale cherry red with some fading at the rim. Sweetly aromatic nose with some herb and undergrowth notes alongside the red cherry fruit. Beguiling and pretty with a strongly savoury edge. The palate is supple and tending to elegance with a slight earthy, spicy twist and sweet strawberry and red cherry fruit. Fresh with good acidity and a bit of grippy structure. This is a really delicious, drinkable wine with a hint of seriousness, too. Has a slight cured meat edge. There’s a lot to like about this wine. 92/100

Kido Private Reserve Cabernet Franc 2014 Nagano, Japan
Whole berry fermentation (destemmed but not crushed). No preferment maceration. Wild yeasts. Sweetly aromatic on the nose with some green herby hints as well as supple blackberry fruit. Sweet and alluring. The palate is rounded and mouthfilling with subtle chalk and green herb notes sitting under the warm, sweet, quite lush black fruits. It’s smooth and a bit autumnal with a lovely fruity core. Nice weight on the midpalate. Lovely purity. 90/100

Kido Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Nagano, Japan
In a good vintage Cabernet Sauvignon does well, but in rainy years it gets hammered. It’s different to Merlot. 2012 was a very good year (along with 2003 and 2009) and this wine is lean but delicious. 10 months in barrel, 70% new. Beautifully aromatic nose with a savoury, gravelly twist to the cool blackcurrant fruit. The palate is really fresh and elegant with lovely spicy blackcurrant fruit and a slightly earthy, savoury, gravelly undercurrent. Lovely stuff with freshness and focus. The green notes are well integrated here. A delicious cool-climate Cabernet. 93/100

Kido Private Reserve Cuvée Akari 2014 Nagano, Japan
This is made in years when Project K, the top wine, isn’t made. A Bordeaux-style blend with 58% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Cabernet Franc. 10 months in barrel, with quite a bit of new oak. Beautifully aromatic with a fine green note sitting amid sweet berry fruits. There’s some blackcurrant, too. The palate is supple and balanced with hints of chalk and mint as well as focused, slightly grippy blackberry, cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Youthful and beautifully focused, this should age well. On the one hand it is sweet and seductive, and on the other it is more serious and structured. Juicy edge to the finish. 92/100

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