2009 Beau Paysage Tsugane La Montagne


Japan’s wine industry might be in its infancy, but it’s expanding. In the past, I’ve had experience with Japanese wines after judging competitions in Tokyo, though I never encountered a bottle that obliged superlatives. I remain unconvinced about the potential of their indigenous Koshu variety. Towards the end of a recent meal, one of our attendees produced a magnum that I had never seen before, never heard of. The 2009 Tsugane La Montagne from Beau Paysage proved what is possible in Japan.

Proprietor Eishi Okamoto farms around three hectares in the Yamanishi prefecture, the largest of Japan’s wine regions, its commercial hub. Examining the back label, I find a personal message from Okamoto, channeling his “inner Lennon”: “A glass of wine can change the world.” The wine is 100% Merlot, organically farmed since planted in the late Nineties, fruit de-stemmed by hand, basket pressed and fermented with no temperature-control or sulphur, aged in oak barrels and bottled by gravity, bottled un-fined and unfiltered. This is a very artisanal outfit, ostensibly one winemaker on a personal voyage, meticulous in every stage of the process.   

I had no idea what to expect. Pouring a glass, I was struck by the purity of fruit on the nose: black plum, a touch of wild mint and iodine, much fresher than I so often find elsewhere, displaying impressive focus and delineation. Fine tannins frame the palate, and for a 14-year-old wine, the 2009 conveys plenty of freshness and vitality. The oak is seamlessly subsumed. Smooth in texture with just a touch of sapidity beckoning you back for another sip, this is a very accomplished and, most importantly, delicious Merlot that could easily last another 15 or 20 years. Stylistically, if I tasted it blind, I might place it somewhere on the Right Bank rather than California.

Okamoto’s wines are very limited in production and nowadays highly sought after, with prices around Y35,000 on the secondary market, north of $300 a bottle. Fortunately, new releases are not extortionate, but they are snapped up in the blink of an eye. If you visit Japan, keep a look out for Beau Paysage.

Can a glass of wine really change the world? Well, maybe not. But it changed my perspective on Japanese wines. 91/Drink 2023-2038.

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