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Masaco’s Social Studies

Episode 4: A taste of Harmony, Kawachi Wine

Last year, the G20 Summit was held in June, at Osaka State Guest House. Worldwide national leaders assembled and enthusiastically discussed the global economy, trade, innovation, environment, energy, women-empowerment and so on, which are internationally concerned issues.

While Mr. Shigeyuki Kondo was attentively watching the G20 news on TV, a phone call from his friend took his attention away. “Shigeyuki, have you heard that Kawachi wine will be served at the G20 dinner party?!” Not knowing about this, Mr. Kondo asked “What? Do you mean the actual G20?!” “The news was too good to be true, so I couldn’t hold back my excitement” said by the 4th generation owner of Kawachi Wine.

Hello everyone, this is YY, one of FB NEWS editing staff. I am filling in for Erii, who was originally assigned to today’s mission, and join Masaco in visiting Kawachi Wine, which is in southeast Osaka.

Masaco explained “I was born in Akashi, near Kobe in western Japan. It is a bit hard to believe that Osaka, an urban city near my hometown, has wineries. I learned about this fact a long time ago, so I have not only tried the wines from there, but also wished to visit there, even before I became involved with FB News reports. Well, today, I am so glad that my wish has come true.”

YY added “The city of Habikino, the Habikino Ham Club, JE3YMT, is a registered as a JARL club. and is very active. The Kashiwara Emergency Communications Cooperation Team, JA3ZAT, is located right next door in the city of Kashiwara, which has lots of vineyards as well.”

YY said “This is an unusual amateur radio related trip, and Masaco seems extremely excited heading to our destination. As the FB News editor selected to oversee the project, I have been rather interested since I found out about the focus of the trip. Under the envious eyes of the rest of the staff members, I hit the road, driving toward Habikino, in southeast Osaka.”

The entrance of Kawachi Wine. Stylish flower decorations are well matched with a retro midget.

Komagatani of Habikino

It takes about 30 minutes to go from the Osaka Abeno bridge to the Komagatani train station, one of the stops on the Kintetsu-Minami-Osaka railway. Beyond the next stop of Kaminotaishi is Nara prefecture. This is an area with the advantaged of being between Nara and Osaka. The west side is the extension of the Osaka plain, full of rice fields and farms. On the east side, a spectacular view of vineyards spread widely over the mountain slopes. This area indeed once being the top grape supplier in Japan.

Habikino, located at south-east of Osaka

Kawachi wine house

Kawachi Wine is about a 10-minute walk from Kamagatani station toward the mountain area. Making a little turn from the main road, the Kawachi Wine factory is on the right-hand side. On the opposite side of the factory is the restaurant that the winery runs, and a little further down is the Kawachi Wine House. The house is where the winery displays and sells its wines, and of course where visitors can taste wines that they are interested in. On average, there are 50 to 60 thousand visitors a year, and it is one of the popular tourist destinations.

Our appointment to visit the winery was reserved around the end of August. When we arrived at Kawachi Wine in the early afternoon, Mr. Kondo, the CEO, came to the parking lot to welcome us. We walked to the Kawachi wine house in the over 100 F summer day, and the cool temperature of the air conditioning inside immediately brought us to heaven!

The Kawachi Wine House was built on the site of an air-raid shelter during the war. Bottles of various wines are displayed, sold and visitors can taste wines here.

The thoughtful winery management deliberately left one line of vines unharvested so we could experience picking the grapes with our own hands. We could also see and taste the grapes to learn about the ripeness, as if we were growing them on our own vine.

Kawachi Wine’s vineyard grows Chardonnay grapes

In the Osaka area, 80-85% of the original cultivated vine type was Delaware. Delaware grapes are smaller than Kyoho or Muscat, but sweeter, and taste delightful. In addition, they are easier to take care of, as they are very resistant to plant disease, and so they were popular among vineyard farmers and grape lovers. However, its popularity led to an over supply, and so its market price was therefore negatively affected. Famers had to change their strategy by growing grape types with added value instead, such as Pione, a vine that combined Kyoho and Muscat, or Shine Muscat grapes that have an eatable skin.

Masaco attentively listens to the introduction of the winery from Mr. Kondo, the 4th generation owner and CEO.

Left: Harvested grapes are on the process of fermentation
Right: Masaco helps by stirring the grapes under fermentation

The process of wine production varies, depending on the type of grape. The whole fruit, including peel and seeds, of Red grapes like Muscat Bailey-A or Merlot to produce red wine. Whereas Delaware, Chardonnay or Niagara are the raw material for white wines, and only their juice is fermented. According to the winery introduction, to make red wines, sulfur dioxide is added to the freshly picked black grapes to prevent oxidation. Then the whole fruit, including juice, peel and seeds are put into tanks for 5 to 15 days, with periodically stirring during the fermentation process, until the right amount of alcohol is produced. At last, the wine is removed and put into barrels or tanks to mature.

Large barrels and Tanks for fermentation

Further back in the factory, there was a thick heavy door that opened into another room, which is the wine cellar. Various wines and plum liquors produced by Kawachi Wine are stored on the stone shelves.

The wine cellar (Photo on the right is from the Kawachi Wine home page)

Wine tasting at Kawachi Wine house

Wine tasting is really a highlight of a winery tour. At the counter of the wine house, a staff member sommelier, who is certified by Japan Sommelier Association, gave us expert introductions to all the wines we selected to taste from the list of Kawachi wines. We were privileged to get her knowledge about their wines before enjoying the tasting.

Masaco said “I feel so undecisive about which wine to taste”

“You are welcome to try all of them if you would like,” the sommelier replied

“Are you sure?!” asked Masaco.

The sommelier added, “How about starting with the white wine produced from Chardonnay grapes? I trust that you picked some from our vineyard.”

“Yes, that will be lovely… Wow, it is so refreshing and tasty”, said Masaco with an unusually big smile.

Left: Masaco holding the plum sparkling wine that was served for the G20 dinner party.
Right: Photographed with sommelier Ms. Kitamura, certified by the Japan Sommelier Association.

After the tasting, we were guided to the second floor of the wine house. Here, is a space for exhibiting the Kawachi Wine history, and Mr. Kondo’s prospective and dreams for the winery.

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