What is koshu?

A. A Japanese grape that belongs to the Vitis family

B. A method used in making fine sake

C. The Japanese term for light-bodied wines that match well with raw fish dishes

D. A type of oak grown in parts of Japan and Mongolia which is used, along with French oak, in the production of some top Chinese wines


The Japanese grape koshu is used in making the light-bodied, fresh-tasting white wine also known as koshu. Koshu is a hybrid that occurred spontaneously in Nature. Scientists hypothesize that it was brought to Japan more than 1000 years ago by traders from the Caucasus traveling east on the Silk Road. The grapes themselves are an unusual, bright magenta-pink color, and don’t quite look like most standard wine grapes. Indeed, koshu is thought to have one European Vitis vinifera parent and one parent from an Asian Vitis species.  The wine is very light in body and low in alcohol. I find it reminiscent of a light riesling in its crispness, or albariño in its faint citrusy/peachy flavors. Because koshu is a delicate grape and because Japan’s climate is hot and humid, making koshu wine is difficult and labor intensive. The Japanese are extremely proud of it, and some top producers are now said to be considering exporting to the U.S. and Europe.

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