Grace Wine’s Koshu: Savoring Top-Tier Japanese Wine

Grace Wine’s Koshu: Savoring Top-Tier Japanese Wine.

On a recent beautiful afternoon, around thirty wine professionals gathered at a popular Restaurant Hemel en Aarde in Utrecht, Netherlands. HermanWines organized this event to explore the top-ranked Japanese winery, Grace Wine. Ayana Misawa, the fifth generation, guided us through an eye-opening journey into Japanese wine, showcasing a range of single variety Koshu wines and a Bordeaux-style blend.

Ayana Misawa: A Winemaker with a Global Perspective and Craftsmanship

Japan’s winemaking all started in the Yamanashi prefecture in the 1870s, when two men, having studied wine production in France, returned to Japan and decided to give it a try with Koshu. Ayana Misawa was born into a family deeply rooted in winemaking for more than 100 years in the Yamanashi. Her father, Shigekazu, the fourth-generation winemaker, is a leading figure in Japanese winemaking and dedicated himself to producing world-class wines in Japan, not only by improving the quality of wine but also by initiating changes to Japan’s unique and sometimes outdated system. Inspired by her father, Ayana naturally pursued oenology. She studied at Bordeaux University under Professor Denis Dubourdieu, earning her Diplôme Universitaire d’Aptitude à la Dégustation (DUAD), and furthered her education at Stellenbosch University.

Ayana is a winemaker who embraces a scientific approach, relying on detailed observations of nature and academic insights (e.g., Nature magazine) to expand her perspective. This foundation underpins her winemaking philosophy. Even after returning to support her family business, she sought firsthand experience from renowned wineries in New Zealand, Chile, Australia, and Argentina. Ayana also values broadening her perspective by exchanging insights with fellow winemakers like Theresa from Georg Breuer (Rheingau, Germany), Andrea from Mullineux & Leeu (Swartland, South Africa), and others.

On the other hand, Ayana values regional traditions, the delicate nuances cultivated in the Japanese climate, and the craftsmanship inherent to the Japanese. 

“Japanese craftsmanship, with its meticulous care, is world-class. For instance, hand-sorting grapes for 12 hours without talking might seem extraordinary elsewhere, but it’s natural in Japan.” Ayana said.

Ayana Misawa during the Grace Wine Masterclass.

Farmers meticulously sanitize their scissors after each use to prevent disease, and each grape bunch in the pergola system is protected from the rain by a paper-like umbrella. This commitment to quality, marked by an extraordinary willingness to undertake immense work, exemplifies craftsmanship beyond our imagination. Upon such extraordinary vineyard work, her winemaking philosophy is to bring out the full potential of the grapes cultivated and sorted with meticulous care in the vineyards to express the characteristics of Japan.

Protecting bunches against rain in Pergola training system.

Unique Terroir of Yamanashi: A Warm and Dry Mountainous Region in a Humid Country

Yamanashi Prefecture is located 100 km west of Tokyo and is the largest of Japan’s four Geographical Indications (GI) for wine.

It is a mountainous region that features Japan’s highest volcanic mountain, Mt. Fuji, as well as the second and third highest peaks. With 80% of the area covered by mountains and situated at the convergence of four tectonic plates, Yamanashi boasts a diverse topography and a variety of soil compositions (volcanic, clay, granite, etc.). Additionally, the region’s proximity to the ocean brings cool breezes, creating further unique terroir for each vineyard.

Unlike other Japanese wine regions that experience over 1500mm of annual rainfall, Yamanashi is one of the driest regions, with 700mm up to 1000mm of rainfall during the growing season, thanks to its mountainous terrain, serving as a rain shadow. 

Koshu: Indigenous Soul Mate in Yamanashi

Koshu is a ‘gri’ grape variety with pink skin, considered indigenous to Japan, but it belongs to the European Vitis vinifera species. According to the book “Wine Grapes” by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, and José Vouillamoz, “Koshu wines are typically light, delicate, and fresh, with a certain zen-like purity about them, and are generally best drunk young.” The book also notes, “Recent quality improvements have included a move to viticultural practices from traditional pergola-style trellising owing to the variety’s high vigor to canopy management may yield better results.”

At Grace Wine, the Misawa vineyard, which produces its top cuvée, has been cultivated with VSP training since 2005, after experimenting with it since 1992. This vineyard has multiple reasons to take advantage of using the VSP system thanks to the microclimate, including orientation to get better airflow or most prolonged sunshine hours in Japan etc.; This approach leads to smaller berries, lower yields, higher sugar levels, and different grape compositions. Notably, the grapes have higher levels of malic acid, allowing for malolactic fermentation, which differs from Koshu grapes from other vineyards.

Tasting journey of Koshu and Bordeaux Blend

What follows now is a report of the Grace Wine tasting we had during the masterclass, featuring single variety Koshu wines and a Bordeaux blend, from current and previous vintages.

The Grace Wine Selection for our Tasting.

2022 Grace Koshu

This is the perfect introduction to the style of Grace Wine. The regional grapes are grown at an altitude of 400 meters, hand-harvested, and gently pressed, followed by fermentation and maturation in stainless steel tanks. 

The result is a wine that is pure, delicate, and subtle, featuring notes of white peach, citrus zest, and small white flowers on the nose. On the palate, this light-bodied wine is bone-dry with refreshing high acidity, mirroring the nose with a hint of bread dough flavor and a refreshing finish with citrus notes. The beautiful transparency makes it an elegant and refined choice. 

We reward this wine with an 89-point DWA score.

2022 Grace Koshu Hishiyama Vineyard

Hishiyama Vineyard, situated at 550 meters with clay and granite soil, utilizes the Pergola Training System. The production method is similar to that of Grace Koshu 2022, yet the higher altitude and unique terroir impart a distinct character. 

This wine exhibits higher intensity with a pronounced mineral impression. The nose reveals aromas of citrus zest, white peach, white flowers, wet stone, smoke, and flint. On the palate, it is a medium minus in body, structured by lean, racy acidity. Very pure and transparent, it offers exceptional precision. 

We award this wine a 91-point DWA score.

2022 Koshu Toribira Vineyard Private Reserve

Toribira Vineyard is situated at 450 meters on a southwest-facing slope with clay-gravel soil. These ideal conditions allow the grapes to ripen fully, resulting in wines with greater intensity and body. Fermentation takes place in oak, followed by aging in stainless steel. Koshu grapes tend to oxidize easily, but fermenting in oak imparts texture while being protected by the natural CO2 produced during fermentation.

The nose reveals added depth and concentration with aromas of citrus, white peach, small flowers, jasmine, juicy tropical fruits, and a hint of spice. This wine boasts a fuller body structured by vibrant acidity, offering a lean yet rounded mouthfeel that complements its signature purity and precision.


We award this wine a 92-point DWA score.

2021 Koshu Misawa Vineyard

Misawa Vineyard, known for its top cuvée, is located in a mountainous area at 700 meters above sea level with clay-volcanic soil. The vineyard enjoys a cool climate with the longest sunshine hours. Vines are trained with VSP. No herbicides or chemical fertilizers are used, and partially malolactic fermentation is carried out (only vintage after 2017).

The wine is refined and restrained on the nose, with notable depth. It boasts aromas of racy citrus, small white flowers, jasmine, white peach, yogurt, a hint of spices, smoke, flint, and wet stone. Refreshing high acidity is counterbalanced by the wine’s depth of flavor. This is a very precise and elegant wine. 

We award this wine a 93-point DWA score.

2014 Koshu Misawa Vineyard

This vintage demonstrates how Koshu ages gracefully. Aging has concentrated the flavors, resulting in more intense aromas of citrus zest, stone, and tropical notes as well as herbal notes like dill, a hint of nuttiness coming up. The wine remains pure and transparent but has developed a higher body and richer texture. 

We award this wine a 94-point DWA score.

2020 Akeno | 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot

Bordeaux holds a special place in Ayana’s heart, but she sought to showcase the unique terroir of Misawa vineyard. Situated at 700 meters with volcanic soil, the vines are trained using the VSP system. The grapes are hand-picked and meticulously double-sorted. Remarkably, only the free-run juice is used, resulting in a yield of approximately 50-60%.

The resulting wine is extremely pure and transparent, with herbal, green bell pepper, red currant, raspberry, red berry, blueberry, graphite, subtle violet, a hint of spices, cedar, tobacco, and bay leaf notes. Supremely elegant and fineness with ripe refined tannins, and vibrant acidity. Very precise but rounded mouthfeel, with persistent finish. 

We award this wine a 94-point DWA score.

A Journey of Grace Wine’s Craftsmanship and Terroir Exploration

Over the course of one and a half hours, we witnessed the supreme craftsmanship and extraordinarily meticulous care taken in both the vineyard and winery. The resulting wines are incredibly pure, transparent, and precise, embodying the elegance and finesse unique to Grace Wine. Ayana and her team’s dedication and commitment to their craft are evident and ever-evolving. We invite you to pick up a bottle of Grace Wine and experience their exceptional craftsmanship for yourself.

This article is written by our own Kazumi Uejo. Grace Wine is imported in the Netherlands by HermanWines, and available through various retail and hospitality partners. We would like to thank HermanWines, Grace Wine (Ayana in particular).  Picture credits: Grace Wine and Dutch Wine Apprentice.

Kazumi Uejo (DWA, left) and Ayana Misawa (Grace Wine, right).