Nagano wine region, Japan (2) – Domaine Nakajima

japan natural wine

Nagano wine region, Japan (2) – Domaine Nakajima

Yutaka Nakajima was studying at chef school when he came across wine. He’s a big fan of natural wine, and also has a strong affection for Alsace. He has experience working in the Loire and Baden (Germany), and in 2011 he decided to plant a vineyard in Tomi, Nagano. The small winery followed in 2014.

Yutaka Nakajima

The first plantings were Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and Yuataka also tried Gamay but it wasn’t successful here. His more recent plantings are Pinot Gris, and soon he will plant some Savagnin, Ploussard and Trousseau on new land that he has acquired.

These are young vines, growing individually on stakes, and protected against winter cold by straw

The vineyards are beautifully situated on a south-facing hillside, at altitude. We spent some time walking through them. His pruning is quite alternative: the vines have spur pruning on multiple heads, like a bush vine, but they are mostly trellised. Some are on single stakes.

Home made destemmer and crusher

Winemaking here is natural: there are no sulfites added until bottling when there is a 15 ppm addition at bottling (in 2015 it was 25, but he reduced it in 2016).

Domaine Nakajima Pet Nat Rosé 2017
This is made from the table grape variety Kyoho, which has huge berries. So they are dried for two weeks and then when fermentation is finished, the wine is bottled with some fresh juice. The result is gently fizzy and delicious, pale pink in colour with linear citrus and red cherry fruit. This is not disgorged and so is a little cloudy, and it is subtle and refreshing. 89/100

Domaine Nakajima Chenin Blanc Sauvignon Blanc 2016
77% Chenin Blanc and 23% Sauvignon Blanc. Barrel aged with no racking for one year. Really supple and beautiful with lovely acidity and a tangy bite. Notes of herbs and straw with hints of cheese in the background, as well as the lemon fruit. There’s a bit of spicy bite on the finish, and it tastes natural but not in a faulty way. Lovely layers of complexity. This has a wonderful mouthfeel and texture. This was picked earlier than normal because of the difficult vintage, and it’s such an expressive, well defined wine. 93/100

Domaine Nakajima Cabernet Franc 2016
Very pale coloured cherry red. Light, focused and supple on the palate with red cherries and fine herby hints, and a bit of blood. Has a slight touch of damson and spice on the finish. Very refreshing and elegant with lovely red fruits and some spicy non-fruit complexity. Nervous and beautifully defined. Such a delicate, fine wine, and really natural. 93/100

Domaine Nakajima Merlot 2016
Very pale cherry red in colour. Elegant, fine and sappy with a little volatile lift, but lovely fine detail with red cherry and leafy notes, and subtle spiciness. A lovely elegant lighter-style red wine. 93/100

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