Nagano wine region, Japan (8) - Votano Wine

Tsubota Mitsuhiro (above) was inspired by Barolo to start making wine: that’s a good starting point, I guess. He began his vineyard in 2001, and now has 1.3 hectares on one of the lower terraces in the Kikyougahara region with stony, alluvial soils. The vineyards are beautifully maintained, with a mix of pergola and vertical shoot positioning.

Pergola training

In the winery he uses only wild yeasts. I liked some of the wines, particularly the Merlot-Ai, but I felt that better oxygen management in the winery could help these wines show better. They were just a little too oxidative.

Some alluvial stones here

Votano Wine Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Kikyougahara, Nagano
Tangy and nutty with some herbs, cheese and spice. Intense citrus fruit with some apple and pear notes. Some nuttiness, too. Spicy and tangy with lots of personality. There’s been a bit of skin contact here which has added personality, and there’s a bit of bitterness on the finish. Has just a trace of VA, but it doesn’t stick out too much. 86/100

Votano Wine Kerner 2016 Kikyougahara, Nagano
Fresh bottle. Usually grown in Hokkaido, where the acidity is higher. There’s a bit of lift on the nose, with spicy apple and lemon fruit. Complex spicy palate with a tangy, slightly vinegar edge and lots of intense citrus and apple fruit. Nice freshness: a distinctive wine that flirts with volatile acidity and probably gets away with it (depending on your tolerance level). 87/100

Votano Wine Pinot Noir 2016 Kikyougahara, Nagano
50% crushed and 50% whole cluster fermentation. This was a difficult vintage in mainland Japan. Pale coloured. There’s a bit of lift here with a spicy, grippy edge to the red cherry and strawberry fruit. Has nice fine-grained tannins and I really appreciate the light extraction here. Juicy and spicy on the finish. Again, it flirts with VA and manages to scrape through. 87/100

Votano Wine Cabernet Franc 2016 Kikyougahara, Nagano
A hard vintage, but he thinks Cabernet Franc is well suited to this site. Pale red and slightly cloudy. There’s a buscuitty, savoury character to this wine. This is savoury and quite oxidative with some malty hints alongside the fruit. I like the mouthfeel but the oxidative characters are a little dominant and there isn’t much fruit left. 80/100

Votano Wine Merlot 2016 Kikyougahara, Nagano
Pergola GDC. 24 Brix. There are some oxidative development here. The red fruits are joined by spice, biscuit and malt character. But there’s enough fruit to carry that and there’s a lovely sweet elegance to the palate. Supple and with some leafy, sappy detail. 84/100

Votano Wine Merlot-Ai 2016 Kikyougahara, Nagano
This is VSP trellising. 20.5 Brix. Sappy with a green streak to the fresh, slightly pepper red cherry and berry fruit. There’s some vitality here missing in the other reds. Light, juicy and quite natural-tasting with a vital character to it. The lower ripeness works really well giving a precision and elegance to the wine. Super-drinkable. 91/100

Votano Wine Seba Rosso 1 2015 Kikyougahara, Nagano
75% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Cabernet Franc. Supple and quite elegant with some oxidative development but also some lovely red cherry and plum fruit. Smoothly textured with faint hints of earth and cheese in the background, but overall this is smooth and textured and has lovely fruit. Don’t cellar but enjoy now at its mellow peak. 88/100

Votano Wine Seba Rosso 2 2015 Kikyougahara, Nagano
Merlot 50%, Muscat Bailey A 50%, aged in old oak. Nice weight here: robust, sweet berry and cherry fruits with some savoury grip. There’s a tiny bit of lift here, but overall there’s a nice fruitiness and some sweet and sour character. Good acidity. 88/100

Votano Wine Shiraz, dried 2016 Kikyougahara, Nagano
27 Brix, and then dried. for one month continued to punch down because the grapes were dried. After one month the skins became softer. Pale brown and cloudy with sweetness, some raisiny notes, a bit of cream. Very rich and spicy and distinctive with a lovely raisiny richness. Weird stuff. 88/100

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