Japanese wines are distinctive in character, yet different. Production may not be so different from wine production in other countries, but there is no other place where your wines have grown in the view of Mount Fuji.

So, if you want to see Japanese wine production firsthand, taste the wines where they are grown, and feel how the soil and water form the grapes, where should you go?

Here are five winery visitor centers in Yamanashi, the oldest wine-growing region in Japan, showing the production and history—and, of course, letting you taste the wines.

1. Mars Hosaka Winery

Photo: Mars Hosaka WineryThe Mars winery building in Yamanashi.

The Mars group may not be famous outside Japan, but they produce modern red wines that remind more of an Australian or New Zealand than Yamanashi. But Chateau Mars also produces fortified and white koshu (white wine grape) wines, which are more fruity and rounded than similar wines from most Japanese producers.

In the Hosaka winery, one of the two group wineries in Yamanashi, you can get a winemaking tour and taste the products in the tasting rooms.

8−1 Kamiimai, Hosakamachi, Nirasaki, Yamanashi – Map

Nearest station: Nirasaki (Yamanashi)

Admission: Tours ¥500, visitor center free. 

Hours: March–November 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., December–February 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

www.hombo.co.jp/factory/mars-hosaka.html

2. Chateau Mercian Katsunuma Winery

Photo: iStock/ Free art directorThese look really grape.

Chateau Mercian is one of the largest wine producers in Japan. Their Katsunuma winery doesn’t make everyday table wines, but wines mean that they win international competitions.

Booking a tour in advance lets you go into the vineyards and see the cultivation firsthand, and English guides are available. This winery features views of Mount Fuji from the vineyards and visitor’s center. You can still go through the museum without reservation. There is wooden wine production equipment preserved from when the winery opened in 1904.

1106-1 Katsunumacho Shimoiwasaki, Koshu, Yamanashi – Map

Nearest station: Katsunuma-budokyo

Admission: Free; Tours: ¥3,000 (tasting not included); Premium tour (with tasting), ¥15,000

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to  4:30 p.m.; Tasting and wine shop: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

chateaumercian.com/en/our-wineries/katsunuma

3. Shirayuri Winery

Photo: Wisterian WatertreeMaking wine simple.

The wines are so good that the G7 ministers got them for lunch at the 2023 Hiroshima summit. Using the local Koshu varietal and several red French and local varietals, they grow the wines close to table grapes to maximize their quality—the Shirayuri motto is that winemaking is simple. Still, the ingredients must be top quality to make great wine.

Shirayuri allows visitors to step on the grapes at harvest time, like in traditional European winemaking. This activity, usually available in July and August, is still suspended due to Corona virus precautions. There are free tours through the vineyards and winery and paid tours where the wine production staff will guide you through the vineyards and winery, including a tasting.

878-2 Katsunumacho Todoroki, Koshu, Yamanashi – Map

Nearest station: Isawa Onsen

Admission: Free; Vineyard tour and tasting: ¥500 yen 

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

shirayuriwine-com/introduce.html

4. Chateau Lumiere

Photo: Wikicommons/ SakaoriBottled Lumiere wine straight from the fermentation tanks.

One of Japan’s oldest wineries and vineyards, founded in 1885, Chateau Lumiere still has some of the original vines, which gives extra depth to the taste of the finished wines.

The reds are deep with a broad, slightly spicy palate, the whites fruity with an extra dimension added by the age of the vines. As a visitor, you will be taken through the entire production process, from the vines to the storage cellars.

624 Ichinomiyacho Minaminoro, Fuefuki, Yamanashi – Map

Nearest station: Isawa Onsen

Admission: Visitor center free; Wine tasting ¥100–¥400. 

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Dinner: 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

www.lumiere.jp/english

5. Asaya Winery

Photo: iStock/ Free art directorPerfect grapes for the perfect wine.

This friendly winery recently celebrated its 100th birthday. The tour goes through the winery, showing how the product works; the wines—modern, slightly fruity, with a tannin kick in some of the reds—have received several awards, and going through the winery on the winery tour, you can really appreciate the process, which leads up to tasting the wines in the shop tucked in behind the factory.

166 Todoroki, Katsunuma, Koshu, Yamanashi – Map

Nearest station: Isawa Onsen

Admission: Free; Guided tours (¥500), Requires advance reservation)

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on New Year’s); Guided tour: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

www.asaya-winery.jp

Do you have a favorite winery? What do you think about Japan’s wine?

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