Tour to the Birthplace of Kyoho Grape Wine in Tanushimaru, Fukuoka
If you ask Japanese people which area in Japan is known for producing wine, many will probably mention Yamanashi, Nagano or some other northern prefecture producing large amounts of grape. But it is relatively unknown that the Kyushu area, the southern island of Japan, also has 11 wineries. The wine from the area is collectively referred to as “Kyushu Wine” and has gained much attention recently.
Here I would like to introduce to you Kyoho Winery (managed by Kyoho Wine Co., Ltd.), one among the 11 wineries in the area.
Kyoho Winery is located in Tanushimaru, Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture. Water springs in the Mino Mountains, which stretch from around Tanushimaru as far as to Hita City in Oita Prefecture, and streams down to Chikugo River. The area from the bottom to the mid-hillside of the mountains is blessed with a large supply of spring water and long hours of sunlight, which helps produce a rich harvest of grapes, persimmons and other fruits.
Lunch at HEURIGE, Restaurant in the Woods
Before rushing yourself to wine tasting, it’s not a bad idea to fill up your belly first. Let’s visit HEURIGE, the winery-owned restaurant in the woods. A beautiful path leads through the greeneries and takes you to the restaurant.
The interior of the restaurant is very open and furnished in wooden lodge style. Here you can enjoy dining while admiring the great view overlooking the Mino Mountains and the Chikugo Plain.
They offer pasta, omelet-wrapped stirred rice (omuraisu), red wine stewed beef and other dishes along with a selection of wine only available here at the winery.
Vine Covered Underground Repository
After lunch, you can tour around the underground wine repository where many bottles of wine are stored. The look of the repository itself is very impressive. The space for the repository is created by quarrying the natural stone and has its entire surface covered by beautiful green vines, the sight of which will remind you of the Ghibli movie by Hayao Miyazaki, “Castle in the Sky.”
The underground space is only dimly lit with storage rooms that are connected like a maze and have many bottles of aged wine lined up on the shelves. Protected from the sunlight and temperature changes, wine here matures slowly for deeper and richer taste.
Kyoho Winery was founded in 1972, when wine making was not yet very common in Japan. The old tools and devices on display in the underground repository must have been used since the opening of the winery and today serve as a great reminder of the winery’s history.
One of the repository rooms has a sign on which it says “’73,” which suggests the bottled wine there has been stored here for about 45 years after the opening of the winery. It would be great if I can try the taste of such matured wine sometime.
Wine Tasting at MINOH, Shop in the Woods
After touring inside the underground repository, you can finally go to MINOH, the shop in the woods, where you can try tasting wine. Kyoho grape wine is not the only wine produced here. As you can see in this photo, they are making wine from persimmon, blueberry, Amao strawberry, kiwi and various other fruits as well.
Fill your tasting cup with a variety of wine offered here as much as you like and discover your favorite. Red wine is usually said to go well with richly flavored meat dishes but Kyoho Wine, as I actually tried at the winery, tasted very mild and I thought would suit sashimi and other Japanese dishes well. Though it depends on the liking of each individual, I thought the wine can go perfectly well with Japanese dishes.
They also offer a variety of non-alcohol wine, which is, fruit juice to put it more simply, which makes the winery an enjoyable place for kids too.
The bottles of wine in the photo are given an adorable name, which is “Wine No Akachan (Baby Wine).” The name comes from the fact that the wine is made from the very first Kyoho grape harvest of the year. Made from freshly harvested grapes, it had nice freshness in its sweet and acidic taste.
Kyoho Winery was born thanks to the blessings of rich nature in the surrounding area. But at the same time, the winery has also gone through the hardship, which is a great reminder of the menace of nature.
In July of 2012 when the northern Kyushu area had heavy rainfall, there was a large scale landslide which devastated about 80 percent of their vineyard. The winery suffered a great shortage of wine ingredients at the time. One consolation though was that their factory suffered no damage, so they purchased fruits from the local farmers instead of using their own grapes and managed to continue to produce wine.
During my time at the winery, I was thinking how much we owe to farms for the wine we usually enjoy and about the blessings as well as the menace of nature. My tour to the winery was such a valuable experience for me.
I highly recommend you to visit the winery yourself. Information: Map