Natural wine at home in Japan

Although Japan is one of the world’s most competitive markets, natural wine is finding open doors. Simon J. Woolf reports.

Photo by Sora Sagano on Unsplash
Photo by Sora Sagano on Unsplash

Every major city has them – those particular haunts where globe-trotting natural winemakers like to cluster after hours. The trail of rustic vignerons in Osaka leads not to a hip wine bar or a fancy mezzanine but to a deserted mall, where the shops are shuttered after the day’s trading. Three massive escalators must be scaled to reach Yoshio Nakagawa’s restaurant Pasania, in the Nakanoshima Dai building.

Pasania doesn’t do Michelin-starred filigree or sushi. Its raison d’etre is a typically Japanese elevation of the humble pancake, okonomiyaki, to a form of delicious high art. When Nakagawa isn’t working at the teppan grill, he pours glasses of his favourite natural wines for the customers. Radikon is a staple, but visitors might also enjoy cloudy pét-nats from Australia, unfiltered Gamay from Beaujolais or funky Pinot Noirs from Japan’s fast-developing domestic natural wine scene. 

Nakagawa is no lone maverick. Natural wine is big in Japan, and the country’s increasing thirst for small-production, low/no sulphur and minimal intervention seems unquenchable. 

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