Asia is one of the biggest growing markets for wine, but the great distance – geographically and culturally – can make it tricky for communication in wine between Chile and Asia. As well as planning to open their new office in China, Wines of Chile invited three prominent wine figures in Japan to come and visit some of the country’s beautiful wine regions and sample some of the great wines – so that they can share their experience with consumers at home.
Kunio Bansho, Editor of the country’s most prestigious wine magazine WANDS; Yusuke Nakanishi, a sommelier who has a wine school in Tokyo; and Toshifumi Nakamoto – sommelier for a three Michelin star restaurant and Director of the Japan Sommelier Association; arrived at the beginning of April with a packed agenda visiting wineries in Maipo, Colchagua, Curico and Casablanca.
The visit was a first chance for Nakanishi to visit Chile and he enjoyed putting the country into perspective by seeing it. “My impression of Chile before arriving was that it was a country by the sea and mountains,” he said, “I imagined it like this – very beautiful in nature.”
Nakamoto, who had visited some wineries in the Central Valley before, was not just impressed with the nature but also with “how modern Santiago is” and its good restaurant and wine scene. He said that there are some Chilean wines which work particularly well with Japanese food pairings: “I love Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon with grilled eel and teriyaki sauce.” This time around he was hoping to taste some cool climate and coastal wines to bring back to Japan.
Nakanishi also agreed that Chilean wine is very good for food pairings: “Chilean wine is a food friendly wine,” he explained talking about his wine pupils’ reactions to tastings. “People like a fruity wine that doesn’t have tannins that are too strong.” Before coming Nakanishi had said that he was most interested in seeing Chile’s Pinot Noirs, which are especially versatile for food pairings.
For Kunio Bansho this was by no means his first visit to Chile, and as a veteran of visiting Chilean wine country – more than 20 times – he loves to return to check out anything new. “Every year it changes a lot and you can find new vineyards,” he says. “From this visit I’ve learnt about the new region Malleco, and next time I want to go there! And I want to go to the North towards San Pedro. And the following year you’ll probably find new regions – there’s still a lot of space for more vineyards, especially in the coastal zones.”
As Chile diversifies into planting in different regions, its market and wine drinkers are also diversifying – even to the shores of Japan.
By Amanda Barnes
Photos taken by Amanda Barnes of the Japanese visit to Vina Aquitania in Alto Maipo.