Urban winery near Tokyo Station offers unique taste, experience

Courtesy of Fukagawa Winery Tokyo
People hold grapes after this year’s harvest on the rooftop of the Akafudado supermarket in Koto Ward, Tokyo, on Aug. 6. The grapes were used as yeast for the wine made this year at Fukagawa Winery Tokyo.

Wine made from grapes harvested this year is beginning to hit the shelves, and there are two places I have in mind to celebrate young wine produced in the heart of Tokyo. They are the vineyard on a supermarket rooftop located about 3 kilometers from Tokyo Station and Fukagawa Winery Tokyo in a nearby residential area in Koto Ward, Tokyo.

The Japan News
A supermarket whose rooftop is used as a vineyard and wine bar for Fukagawa Winery Tokyo

Winery representative Toru Nakamoto, who used to operate a wine bar in China, opened this urban winery in 2016 in the traditional commercial and working-class neighborhood, hoping to get people to enjoy wine more casually. The winery began growing wine grapes two years later on the supermarket rooftop, aiming to allow people to see how grapes grow while drinking wine at their rooftop bar.

Courtesy of Fukagawa Winery Tokyo
Grapes harvested at a vineyard on the rooftop of the Akafudado supermarket on Aug. 6.

Unlike the vast, picturesque vineyards of the Katsunuma district of Koshu, Yamanashi Prefecture, which is one of Japan’s leading wine production areas, this rooftop vineyard is in an area busy with traffic and shoppers day and night. However, about 100 grape plants yielded about 10 kilograms of grapes to be used as yeast for the wine made at the winery this year. Given their first harvest was 2 kilograms in 2020 and the fact that about 1 kilogram of grapes make a 750-milliliter bottle of wine, this year’s yield is a big step toward making wine from locally grown grapes in the heart of Tokyo some day in the future.

One Sunday afternoon earlier this month, my husband and I walked to the winery near our house to taste the young wine that has just been released. The about 60-square-meter winery produces nearly 20,000 bottles per year. In the small tasting room next to the winery, 15 labels of dry wine were on offer for tasting, 20 milliliters for ¥200 and 50 milliliters for ¥300.

“Tokyo is a place where people gather from various places. We’re making wine that is like this big city by using grapes harvested in various parts of Japan and yeast from locally grown grapes,” vintner Kosuke Ueno said.

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White and orange wine with yeast from grapes harvested on the rooftop of the Akafudado supermarket in Koto Ward, Tokyo

The newly produced white and orange wines made of Delaware grapes harvested in Yamagata Prefecture ―with the yeast from the grapes produced on the supermarket rooftop ― were quite refreshing.

“We produce dry wine that pairs particularly well with Japanese cuisine, such as fish-based dishes and soy sauce-based food like yakitori grilled chicken and sukiyaki,” Ueno said.

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Vintner Kosuke Ueno explains about the winery at Fukagawa Winery Tokyo in Koto Ward, Tokyo, on Nov. 6.

The winery allows visitors to see its production area on Sunday afternoons after making a reservation via Instagram or Messenger or by phone. We joined a couple living near the winery and a woman who came all the way from Nagano Prefecture to see it. Upon stepping into the winemaking space, we were greeted with the smell of sour, fermented grapes. Ueno explained the process of winemaking by holding up laminated photos and showing some of the equipment.

The winery sometimes recruits volunteers through social media to get people involved in winemaking, for example, harvesting and preparing grapes and even sinking bottled wine into Tokyo Bay as a joint project to experiment with underwater wine aging with the local Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. Such opportunities help winemaking – but also sometimes unexpectedly turn into matchmaking.

“Two volunteers who participated in our winemaking got married and they gave their families and friends our wine as a gift at their wedding,” Ueno said.

This winery seems to be bringing joy and happiness to people in various ways.

For more information about the winery, visit their website at https://www.fukagawine.tokyo/en