September 25, 12 | Fumiko Magota
Hokkaido is famous for its wine vineyards, and Toichi Town is one of the most well known areas for wine plantations. In Toichi, seated atop a hill overlooking the sea of Japan, Hirotsu Vineyard is currently preparing for its yearly harvest. I spoke with Mr. Satoshi Hirotsu, a fifth generation worker, about the coming harvest season.
▲ "Yoichi Town has long been the place for apples, pears, and other fruit trees. So it's quite suited for wine vineyards as well, I think." - Mr. Hirotsu
"I think that the breeze that blows through the vineyards definitely helps the taste of the grapes. In stagnant air, grape vines are subject to insect damage and disease, but in this area the environment helps to fend those troubles off. Grapes cultivated in this environment have a good balance of sweetness and acidity. If it's too hot, the grapes become sour, too cold and they get too sweet. The temperature here is well balanced and the taste of the grapes reflects that. We hear that this area's climate is very close to Germany's."
▲ Hirotsu's vineyard is about 8 hectares, and sits atop a hill.
▲ Cultivating Red and White grapes for German Kellner, Bacchus, Austrian Zweigelt Loewe, and French Pino Noir.
"Are there any tips to help grow delicious grapes? Well, let's see. We don't do anything special here, but we do put a lot of care into our vines, and I think they respond to that. If we give them exactly the right care, they give us back exactly the right grape."
▲ Sixth generation vineyard worker, Mr. Yuichi - "We're all here to help produce quality grapes for making delicious wine. Even though I'm only out here working in the field I still feel great when people tell me they enjoyed the wine I helped to make."
"Occasionally after a long day of work I'll enjoy a bit of cooled Kellner in the field. It really is superb. I’ll have a plastic disposable cup in one hand, a bottle in the other, head to my favorite spot on the hill, and drink while soaking in the sight of a sunset over Mt. Shiripa.
The wine is fantastic, no need for snacks to go along with it. I always promise myself I'll just have one glass, but I usually end up finishing off the bottle while I'm up there. (laughs) Being able to drink your own wine in the fields where the grapes grew, I guess that's a farmer's privilege. One of life's little luxuries."
"This year’s harvest begins on September 20th. We start working in the fields as soon as the snow thaws, and up until the harvest is finished we don't really get the chance to take a break. We always look forward to that first day after we're officially finished, when we can finally go to the fields and drink some of the wine. I wonder how this years grapes will turn out. I guess we'll find out when the wine is ready!"
▲ Mr. Hirotsu's grapes are used in Sapporo Wine's "Grande Polaire" from the Japanese Premium Wine series. In the front is Mr. Hirotsu's favorite type, the "Hokkaido Kellner." Behind the Kellner is the Muller, which also uses grapes from a Yoichi Town vineyard.
To Purchase http://store.shopping.yahoo.co.jp/sapporowine/index.html (Japanese)
(Hokkaido Likers Photo Writer - Fukko)