Daterra Viticultores, stunning wines from Laura Lorenzo in Ribeira Sacra

Laura Lorenzo, Daterra Viticultores

One of my discoveries of the 2018 edition of Simplesmente Vinho was the wines of Laura Lorenzo. Previously working with Dominio de Bibei, in 2014 she set out on her own to form Daterra Viticultores. She’s based in Manzaneda in the Bibei Valley, in Galicia’s Ribeira Sacra. While Ribeira Sacra isn’t a large region, it does have quite distinct terroirs, and part of her goal is to showcase these differences in her wines.

She works with 25 vineyard plots, and in total there are 5 hectares of vines, so this is precision parcellation. Winemaking is simple and quite natural. The reds are usually destemmed (athough maybe 10% whole bunch is employed in some cuvees in warmer years), and there’s a short, usually one-week, maceration. The wine then goes to barrel (chestnut or oak), or foudres.

Production is around 18 000 bottles per year.

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Daterra Viticultores Casas de Enriba 2016 Valdeorras, Spain
This is a Mencia from a south-facing vineyard at 550 m altitude, with granitic clay/loam soils. Aged in used 500 litre oak and 1000 litre chestnut barrels. It’s beautifully aromatic with perfumed red cherries. Fine and bright with enticing aroma. The palate is nicely textural with silky red cherries and fine spices. So beautiful. 94/100

Daterra Viticultores Portela do Vento 2016 Ribeira Sacra, Spain
90% Mencia, with the balance a mix of Alicante Bouschet (Garnacha Tintorera), Merenzao, Mouraton and Gran Negro. From two vineyards in Chanteiro and Terras de Trives at 350-700 m and on granitic sandy/loam soils. 11 days maceration with some stems, aged in a 4000 litre foudre and used small oak. 12.5% alcohol. Very fine and expressive with red cherries and fine herbs. Really floral. The palate has a sappy twist to the sweet fruit with some structure under the fine spices, raspberries and cherries. 95/100

Daterra Viticultores Azos da Vila 2016 Ribeira Sacra, Spain
This comes from vineyard plots in Manzaneda (Val do Bibei), granitic soils, 400-750 m. 20 day maceration on skins, aged in 225 and 500 litre oak. This is a blend of Mouraton, Gran Negro, Mencia, Garnacha Tintorera, Merenzao, Dona Blanca, Colgadeira and Godello. Old vines. So fine, linear and expressive with fresh sappy rasoberry and cherry fruit. Lovely acidity and great balance to the fruit. So elegant with real finesse and brightness. 95/100

Daterra Viticultores Azos do Pobo 2016 Ribeira Sacra, Spain
This is from Soutipedre, and single plots on this mountainside with schist and slate soils. The varieties are Mouraton, Gran Negro, Mencia, Garnacha Tintorera and Merenzao, and this is aged in small oak. Brooding black cherry and raspberry aromatics. Vivid and expressive with lovely supple, grippy, elegant red and black fruits with some structure. Picked on the cusp with lots of ageing potential: a beautiful wine. 96/100

Daterra Viticultores Gavela da Vila 2016 Ribeira Sacra, Spain
This is Palomino macerated on the skins for seven days. Very textural and fine with a bit of spicy bite. Supple with pear and citrus fruit, and a hint of mineral. Stony and grippy on the finish. 92/100

Daterra Viticultores Erea de Vila 2015 Ribeira Sacra, Spain
A blend of Godello and Dona Blanca. Because of mildew, this wasn’t made in 2016 and the grapes went into the reds. It’s nutty, intense and mineral on the nose. Lovely weight on the palate with almonds, pears, spice and citrus. There’s a lovely texture with some oxidative hints. Fine spiciness on the finish. Quite profound. 94/100

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Terroir: when soils trump climate

I’ve been embroiled in endless discussions about terroir in the past. And I mean endless. They quickly become unfocused, ideological and circular, with people talking at cross purposes. But it’s still such an interesting concept. And an important one: it lies at the heart of fine wine.

Here I just want to make one point. When it comes to fine wine, soils trump climate. Let me explain.

Terroir deniers (and there are many of them; they tend to hunt in packs; and Australia and California harbor the largest populations of them) suggest that the biggest factor in wine quality is climate. And, given the right climate and variety combination, then a skilled viticulturist combined with good winemaking can fashion great wines.

This spawned a lot of work looking at ‘homoclimes’. For example, if you want to make great Pinot Noir, then find the climatic areas that most closely resemble areas where the world’s greatest Pinots are made. That would probably be the Côte d’Or of Burgundy then. When I was getting into wine back in the mid-1990s this was how people were thinking. Some still do think like this.

Limestone soils, Bairrada

But while climate clearly is important, it isn’t sufficient in of itself to create great wines. Although this offends my egalitarian principles, I must acknowledge that not all vineyard sites are created equal. And it’s what lies under the surface of the vineyard that acts as the ceiling to wine grape, and thus wine, quality.

To the terroir sceptic, trained in the self-confident wine schools of new world countries, the parcellation and vineyard hierarchies in Burgundy are absurd. Their explanation for this? They are all about marketing and microclimate. But there are two problems with this view.

First, microclimate: while there are going to be differences from one vineyard to the next, these climate differences don’t track the boundaries of climats (separately identified vineyard parcels: there are 1247 of them in Burgundy), and they are modest. A vine doesn’t see climate: it sees the weather of the growing season. This will differ from year to year more than the small microclimatic differences among the climats. The thing that stays the same is the soil (and the aspect, of course). There has been climate change with a warming trend over the last 50 years but there’s no clamour to change vineyard boundaries here.

And the marketing argument doesn’t stack up. Don’t you think, given the huge economic incentives, owners of village level vineyards would be taking much more care and attention, if by better viticulture they could achieve Grand Cru level wines? Of course, there are some over-performers with village level plots (think JP Fichet in Meursault as a good example), and some under-performers with Grand Crus (and some Grand Crus, such as bits of Clos du Vougeot and Echezeaux that aren’t necessarily all that grand), but in general the vineyard hierarchy is intact. This is because it is the soils that act as the ceiling for quality. Good growers run into this ceiling. I’m not negating the importance of skilled viticulture and winemaking; I’m just saying that this can only take you so far.

If you don’t have great soils, you can’t make great wine. You can make very good wine, and very enjoyable wine, but there will be a ceiling to quality no matter how skilful your viticulture and winemaking is. For this reason, for fine wines, soil trumps climate. The climate can get you most of the way there, but to cross the finishing line, you need some help from the soils.

You can make some very nice wines indeed from grapevines planted in OK soils with the right climate. But there’s a difference between good and great. Not everyone gets this difference, but it is there, and as a community of judgement we recognize and reward it. And to make great wines, you need to have a great soil. How to define a great soil? That’s a great topic for another day, but water relations, composition and chemistry all matter. Microbes, too, probably. Across the wine world, people are beginning to realize this.

Wine writer buys wine! Shock! But which ones?

I had a case of wine delivered today. One that I paid for! Yes, occasionally we wine writers buy wine. Well, at least I do. Apart from anything else, a diet of samples (even good ones) isn’t healthy. How can you connect with readers who buy wine if you, as a writer, are never in their shoes? When you spend your own money on a bottle you have a different relationship with it.

I spend quite a bit of money on wine in restaurants (these days, I’m more often dining out than in it seems), but I also buy wine from retailers. And I reckon it’s useful for readers to see what the writers they follow buy. This time it was some Spanish whites, and they are pictured above. There were 3 bottles each of the Feifinanes Albariño, which I really like, and the classic Tondonia Reserva Branco 2004. Then a couple of bottles of the Rosal (another lovely Albariño). And the last bottle of Eulogio Pomares’ amazing Carralcoba wine. Finally, two singletons from Jerez: the Equipo Navazos and the Niepoort Navazos. There’s some good drinking here, and the wines were also very reasonably priced.

Video: the Nagano wine region, Japan

Here’s a brief video of my trip round the Nagano wine region:


Albariño series (2) Granbazán Etiqueta Ámbar 2016 Rías Baixas, Spain

The second wine in this series on Albariño, that wonderful grape from northwest Spain and Portugal, is another from Rias Baixas. This one is a bit of a surprise: I picked it up from Oddbins tonight on the way home, and it’s packed in a very old-fashioned way. But it delivers lovely flavours.

Granbazán Etiqueta Ámbar 2016 Rías Baixas, Spain
13% alcohol. With very old-school packaging in a tall bottle, the appearance of this wine is a bit deceptive, because it’s actually modern and thrilling. It has a lovely refined spicy quality under the fresh, delicate pear, apple and peach fruit. Made from free-run juicy only, this has a refined personality, and offers beautifully poised fruit, freshness and a mineral, spicy finish. Despite the delicacy, there is plenty of flavour here, and it has a long, tapered finish. Lovely stuff. 93/100 (£15.50 Oddbins)

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ALBARIÑO

  1. Eulogio Pomares Parcelarios (I) Carralcoba Albariño 2015 Rias Baixas, Spain
  2. Granbazán Etiqueta Ámbar 2016 Rías Baixas, Spain

Gamay 38, Maison Dominique Piron Fleurie 2016

This is a lovely expression of Fleurie, from Dominique Piron. I visited him in 2016, and was really impressed by the consistency and nice terroir expression of the wines. He’s based in Morgon, but also makes wines from other crus. I think this wine is a different bottling to his normal Fleurie (it has a different label) and is a Laithwaites exclusivity. But it’s really good.

Maison Dominique Piron Fleurie 2016 Beaujolais, France
13% alcohol. This has a lovely sweet, warmly spiced nose of raspberries, cherries and cured meat. In the mouth, it’s supple and structured, with sweet raspberries, a hint of pepper and some warm meaty undertones. This is rich but fresh at the same time with a nice savoury spiciness and a hint of seriousness to go with the supple drinkability. A complete expression of Beaujolais, combining prettiness and substance. 92/100 (£14.49 Laithwaites)

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Nagano Wine Region: grand tasting and overall impressions

This was a chance to taste 28 of the leading wines from Nagano prefecture, which is one of the three main Japanese wine regions, and along with Hokkaido, is the one generating the most interest at the moment. This line-up reflects the varietal mix among the better producers (there are quite a few less expensive wines being made with hybrids and labrusca varieties which are easier to grow in this rather damp climate). I found plenty to like here.

My overall impression from my visits to 10 wineries, plus this tasting, was that these are early days for Nagano. It isn’t an easy region to grow grapes in: the growing season rainfall can be high, which creates disease pressure, and the soils – which are quite varied, but most commonly seem volcanic-derived, dark acidic loams – tend to be fertile. So the real skill is in the viticulture: getting the grapes to a good state of maturity, in good health.

The altitude here certainly helps moderate climate, and the result is wines with a natural freshness. They can be very pretty indeed, with cool-climate elegance. I really enjoyed a lot of the wines made in a more natural way, but to do this well needs a good understanding of more conventional winemaking. It takes a lot of skill to do nothing.

As for varieties, clearly Chardonnay is good for whites, and there are also some good Sauvignons. Many of the wines I tried were from the very tricky 2016 vintage so I have to cut them some slack. I loved the two Albariños that I tried: this is a variety with potential here. For reds, Syrah shows a lot of promise, as does Merlot (even though this isn’t a grape I normally warm to). Pinot Noir is trickier and requires really good viticulture, and normally some hard work on the sorting table too. I’m all for experimenting with newer varieties, and when handled well hybrids like Muscat Bailey A and Ryugan can perform well.

The encouraging thing is the dedication and skill of the new crop of winegrowers here. I’m really confident that they’ll learn fast, and make really interesting wines. Because of the challenges of working here, there’s no point just settling and making boring technological wines. There has to be a desire to make something really interesting, and not just commercial.

Domaine Nakajima Kyoho Petillant Naturel Rose 2017
Cloudy pale pink colour. Aromas of red cherries and strawberries with some apple notes. The palate is refreshing and bright with lovely pear, apple and citrus character. Nice texture with fine spiciness. Natural but lovely. 89/100

Shinshu Takayama Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Lighter style with some mineral and herb notes alongside the pear and citrus fruit. Lively acidity here. Attractive if a bit dilute. 86/100

Kiku Watanabe Wa Yawata Sauvignon Blanc 2016
This is quite light and open with a herby twist to the pear and citrus fruit. Midweight style with an open personality, and herb-tinged fruit. 84/100

Rue de Vin Sauvignon Blanc 2017
From Hideaki Koyama. Lovely steely, nettly Sauvignon very much in a Loire style, with a well integrated green streak and a mineral twist, as well as pear and citrus fruit. Restrained and delicious. 89/100

Alps Wine Muse de vin Zenkoji Ryugan 2017
Open, delicate and bright with fresh tangerine and table grape fruitiness, as well as good acidity. Light and a bit stony: a nice simple fruity style. 87/100

Hayashi Nouen Estate Ryugan 2016
Attractive with clean, sweet grapey fruit. There’s a bit of sweetness here, and it is nicely direct and fruity. A pretty, easy wine. 86/100

Kido Winery Private Reserve Masumi Blanc 2015
61% Rielsing, 39% Pinot Gris. Lovely flavour here: bold and spicy with nice sweet pear, apricot and citrus fruit. Has some depth and texture, and a touch of creaminess. Nice complexity, too. 91/100

Kido Winery Private Reserve Pinot Gris 2015
Rich and quite creamy with attractive textured table grape notes as well as some apricot and pear. Tastes a bit like a dry Sauternes (the botrytis), but has some nice substance and concentration. 91/100

Funky Château Strate Cassée 2015
Varietal Semillon. A distinctive nose: quite oxidative and sherry-like with some broad citrus and apple fruit. The palate is really tangy and delicious. This has a lovely Vin Jaune personality with citrus and apple, as well as some salty, tangy characters. This must have had a good layer of flor on it to taste like this. Lovely. 92/100

Manns Wines Komoro Winery Solaris Shinano Riesling Dry 2016
This is bright and fresh, with a very pretty citrus character. Juicy and floral with lovely balance. Such a bright, appealing wine with crisp, slightly spicy citrussy fruit and good acid. Smells sweet but is dry. 88/100

Manns Wines Komoro Winery Soralis Shinshu Komoro Chardonnay Barrel Ageing 2012
Richly aromatic toasty nose showing nuts, apples, spice and some citrus. The palate is very rich and broad with a strong mineral twist and plenty of toasty oak supporting the fruit. Quite old school in style but will delight lovers of rich oaky Chardonnay. 88/100

Kusunoki Winery Chardonnay Barrel Ageing 2015
Soft and textured with nice pear and spice as well as some lovely graininess. Very smooth and textural with great balance. Oak is present but not dominant. 91/100

Suntory Japan Premium Takayamamura Chardonnay 2016
Very appealing with fresh citrus and pear fruit and nice texture. Midweight with a fine spiciness and well balanced fruit and oak. 89/100

Alps Wine Muse de vin Maestro Shiojiri Chardonnay 2016
Freshly aromatic with sweet tangerine and tinned pear notes. The palate is light and fresh with a slight mineral smokiness under the fresh citrus fruit. Appealing in a lighter style. 87/100

Izutsu Wine Chardonnay Barrel Ageing 2016
This has nice focus: bright citrus and pear fruit with a hint of white peach richness. It’s bright and delicate with good acidity and a slight bitterness on the finish. Well made. 88/100

Yamabe Winery Chardonnay Barrel Ageing 2015
Light, fresh and very attractive with pure citrus and pear fruit. Delicate and refined with good balance. This is light, but really well made. 89/100

Villa d’Est Garden Farm and Winery Pinot Noir 2015
Pale cherry red in colour. Sweetly aromatic with some cherry and strawberry, as well as some sweet herbs. Lovely supple palate with soft, smooth texture, some strawberry and cherry, and a hint of minty herbiness, too. Has a fresh savoury edge. 90/100

Obuse Winery Domaine Sogga Vin Sans Chimie Merlot & Tannat 2016
Concentrated and structured with dense black fruits and nice spiciness. Robust and tannic with a really appealing rich but fresh personality. Lovely wine. Good acid. 92/100

Obuse Winery Vin Sans Chimie Cabernet Franc Murasaki Numero Trois 2016
Lovely rounded sweet cherry and raspberry fruit here: this has texture and depth here. Lovely mouthfeel: there’s a purity of fruit, coupled with nice structure, and it’s really seductive. 92/100

Shinshu Mashino Winery Pionnier Cabernet Franc 2015
Sweetly fruited with a pronounced herbal edge to the nose. The palate is fresh and sappy with some green herbal characters and soft, smooth red cherry and strawberry fruit. A pretty, light style of wine. 86/100

Alps Wines Muse de vin Maestro Syrah 2016
This is really peppery and delicious with a smooth, silky black cherry fruit character and some nice spicy, peppery framing. Very seductive and well balanced. Delicious, silky cool climate Syrah. 93/100

Chateau Mercian Mariko Vineyard Syrah 2014
Beautiful stuff: fresh, pure and peppery. Lovely red fruits here with some spicy depth and a distinct pepper and clove savouriness. Very stylish indeed: lovely precise cool climate Syrah. 93/100

Kusunoki Winery Merlot Cuvee Masako 2015
Very elegant and pure. Lighter style without too much extraction, showing very pretty red cherry and raspberry fruit, and real finesse, with some fine spicy structure. Beautiful stuff. 92/100

Aperture Farm Reunion 2016
A varietal Merlot. Beautifully aromatic and fine. Very textural and fresh with lovely red cherry fruit. It’s light but has really lovely presence and amazing elegance. This is a truly beautiful, expressive Merlot that is smashable but has a serious edge, too. Lovely. 93/100

Suntory Shiojiri Winery Iwadarehara Merlot 2014
This is beautifully put together: smooth, focused and with lovely slightly peppery berry fruit. Very sleek and fine with lovely pure berry fruit. Has some fleshiness but also good structure and acid. Very fine. 93/100

Izutsu Wine Merlot Barrel Ageing 2015
Lovely bright, dense raspberry and cherry fruit here. Clean with nice density, but perhaps just a little too much oak at the moment. Really nice weight and purity to this. 89/100

Shinshu Takayama Winery Merlot Cabernet 2016
Nice balance here with sweet, supple, textured red cherry and berry fruit. There’s a smooth mouthfeel, but at the moment the spicy vanilla oak is too high in the mix. Lots of potential though. 88/100

Manns Wines Komoro Winery Soralis Shinshu Higashiyama Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Gravelly and dark with bright cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Grippy and structured but with nicely weighted fruit, showing some savoury detail as well as nice fruit. 91/100

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Nagano wine region, Japan (10) - Shinshu Takayama Winery

The Takayama winery is an interesting project: it’s a collaboration between local vineyard owners (so in effect, a small co-op), with winemaker Eiichi Takano at the helm. He’s worked previously for Mercian, and has also experience in France. We visited with him and also Kazuaki Wajui, who is the director/president.

Eiichi and Kazuaki

The impressive winery was built in 2015, and is in the village of Takayama, which is high up in the valley, looking down towards Nagano City and the Chikuma River. We’re at 650 m altitude here, and the vineyards, which track an alluvial fan from the Matsukara river down from the mountain, begin at 400 metres and go all the way up to 850 metres, giving a diversity of climates.

Inside the modern, well-equipped winery

The first planting of vinfera in the village was Chardonnay in 1996, and the farmer was a contract grower for Mercian. Mercian and Suntory are two larger wineries who have made  Chardonnay with the name of the village on the label, and these won lots of awards, which got people interested in Takayama. The local government has been supportive of vineyard development, and from just 3 hectares in 2008, there are now 50 hectares, although the current productive vineyard is 40 hectares.

They expect the vineyard will expand further, and the number of the farmers has increased: there are currently 30 farmers, up from 13 when the venture began. There are two other wineries in the area, and soon the law will be changed so that only wineries using grapes and vinifying them in the area can use the name Takayama on the label.

2018 a community association was established for the local wine people to study and taste together. There are growers from all over Nagano and from outside, and even some people from Tokyo. There are 130 people in this association.

The wines are good, but I think better is yet to come. A sorting table might help for the Pinot Noir, which is showing more development than it should at this young stage in its life. Where notes are duplicated, the wines were tried on separate occasions on the trip.

Shinshu Takayama Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2016
80% first crop. First release from the winery. Has some chaptalization. Fresh and a bit flinty with a slight herby edge to the apple and pear fruit. Juicy and focused with some tangerine hints and a bit of lemon peel. Juicy and linear. 87/100

Shinshu Takayama Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Lighter style with some mineral and herb notes alongside the pear and citrus fruit. Lively acidity here. Attractive if a bit dilute. 86/100

Shinshu Takayama Winery Chardonnay 2016
70% first crop; 30% older vines fermented in new oak barrels. Fresh and focused with stylish pear, apple and white peach fruit. Has a subtle nuttiness with nice bright acidity. A direct, fresh style of Chardonnay with keen acidity. Tight and a bit closed. Midweight. 88/100

Pinot Noir 2017 tank samples

1 First crop Spicy and smoky with a slightly faded colour. Has some sweetness to the cherry fruit but also a savoury twist. A little bit funky.

2 From Akio Sato’s vineyard at 777 high altitude. Juicy and bright. Very raspberry like with high acidity. Has a savouriness to it. Grippy and quite challenging.

Shinshu Takayama Winery Merlot Cabernet 2016
Seven months in new oak. There’s a savoury, cedary edge to the attractive ripe black cherry and blackberry fruit. Hints of tar and spice, with a nice mouthfeel and a savoury twist to the palate. Showing some oak, but rounded and appealing with nice weight. 87/100

Shinshu Takayama Winery Merlot Cabernet 2016
Nice balance here with sweet, supple, textured red cherry and berry fruit. There’s a smooth mouthfeel, but at the moment the spicy vanilla oak is too high in the mix. Lots of potential though. 88/100

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Nagano wine region, Japan (9) - Cantina Riezo

Yasuyuki Yumoto (above) is inspired by Italy. He has a lovely small winery and vineyard in the northern part of Nagano prefecture, and he decided that this would be a great place for northern Italian varieties. And he prefers reds to whites, so selected Dolcetto and Barbera as his key grapes. He also has Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. He wanted to grow some Garganega, too, but has had problems with getting the material through quarantine.

Previously, Yasuyuki worked at Saint Coursair, and in 2007 he planted his first Merlot and Chardonnay vines. He has 0.7 hectares, and has been out to Italy to get inspiration for his work. The winery was established in 2015, and last vintage he put 7 tons of grapes through it. He uses 800 litre fermenters and 350 litre Gamba barrels.

The wines are delicious and are really well packaged.

Cantino Riezo Ciao Ciao Rosso 2016
This is Merlot. Lively and spicy and vivid with fresh raspberries and bright cherries. Has a nice spiciness. Supple, juicy and with a slight sappy edge. Very drinkable and a tiny bit rustic, but in a good way. 88/100

Cantino Riezo Strada Nuova Merlot 2015
Lovely fresh aromatic nose has vivid berries and some spice. Juicy, fresh and focused on the palate with vibrant cherry and plum fruit. Nice grip and freshness with a crunchy, savoury finish. 91/100

Cantino Riezo Sakura Sakura Barbera 2016
Vivid pink colour. Very fresh and intense with keen acidity, some cranberry notes and bright cherries. High acid. So bright. 87/100

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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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