In keeping with the theme of International Women’s Day 2016 that was celebrated earlier this week,  here is Part #2 of my Series “WOMEN IN WINE” where I wish to introduce you to the most graceful and soft spoken, Ayana Misawa, who has taken JAPANESE WINES by storm through her persistence and hard work crafting some of the most minerally driven and delicate wines at her Winery called GRACE, located in the Yamanashi Prefecture in the main island of Honshu.

The family owned winery, established by Chotaro Misawa in 1923 is now run by his fourth-generation successor, Shigekazu Misawa, whose daughter Ayana Misawa is charge of wine making. They own 14ha of land and annually produce approximately 2000 hl of wines. Their main wine is produced from native Koshu grapes, that was originally known to have entered Japan through the Silk Road atleast a thousand years ago. Other white grapes include Chardonnay and they also produce a fair amount of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

Grace’s Mission Statement “To produce wines reflecting a unique combination of soil, sunlight and altitude”

I had the privilege of meeting Misawa-San recently at the Koshu Tasting and despite her very busy schedule, she personally took me through her wines and we conducted the tastings together. Some of the questions that we briefly touched upon are as follows:

Sumilier: How and where did you obtain your Wine making Qualifications and Experience? Which of these experiences has been most valuable to you in transferring the skills into Japanese Wine making. 

Ayana: “I got my Wine Maker’s qualification from Yamanashi University in Japan. Thereafter, I studied winemaking and viticulture in France (Bordeaux University) and SouthAfrica (Stellenbosch University).

I worked for Vintages in NZ (Mountford winery, Waipara), Australia (Brokenwood in Hunter valley, Woodlands in Margaret River, Bay of Fires in Tasmania), Chile (Vina Errazuriz), Argentina (Catena Zapata) and South Africa (Cape Point Vineyards).

I respect every approach and the “know-how” in each country, which is always related to its climate. I brought back the drainage system called Ridge system from South Africa. In Japan, three keys to make fine wines are:  the sunshine hours, the drainage, and Japanese craftmanship.”

Sumilier: What is the purpose of Ridge System?

Ayana : “During rainy season, the ridge helps drain excessive water, vines cannot survive on water clogged soils; this also produces concentrated fruits.”

Ridge System dug in between rows at Grace

Ridge System dug in between rows at Grace

Sumilier: What do you like the most about your job?

Ayana : “The sense of togetherness and family tradition and what we give as a team to our winery and region is always a part of our identity and that is what I like most about the job.”

Sumilier : What challenges do you face in your job?

Vineyards of Grace  

Vineyards of Grace

Ayana: “The climate in Japan and its effect on grapes is not as easy to understand. We are located at very high altitudes as well as latitude and face harsh weather patterns. We constantly work hard to bring out the correct balance of flavours in our grapes so as to produce consistently delicate wines but it is a challenging art. Also, Japanese wines are not well known internationally as most of them are consumed in the domestic market so our endeavour is to re-position them for export markets and make them internationally competitive and appealing.”

Sumilier: Where are your export markets?

Ayana: “We currently export to 19 countries, some of which include England, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Netherland, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, USA, Russia.”

Sumilier : How would you describe your wines?

Ayana :   “Pure, uniquely elegant with a delicate touch”

Sumilier: How does Climate and Terroir impact your wines?

Grace Winery entrance

Grace Winery entrance

Ayana: “Vintage variation is a major challenge for us, as I had mentioned earlier. Yamanashi is a mountainous area and our vineyards are located at an altitude of 400m-700m. Fresh winds from the mountains and good canopy management yields healthy-concentrated fruit driven wines.  It is a cool climate zone that we are located in and hence our wines reflect this, tending to have low alcohol combined with very high acidity. Soils are varied, being a mix of clay-gravel, clay-volcanique, clay-granite.  At Grace we have started delivering Wines of Koshu by different districts and parcels of vineyards based on different soils. So we now deliver different styles of wines based on plots but all of them are made in eco-friendly ways with a natural, gallant and elegant taste.”

Sumilier : As a Woman in the Wine industry, what is your message to the Women who want to get into this Profession?

Ayana : “I strongly believe that women are meant to be in this profession! They symbolise positive energy, dedication and most of all a deep sense of commitment. Our delicate touch is very important to bring in elegance in wine-making ; these wines reflect the feminist finesse and grace (and hence our name!).  Women’s inputs are very important in my team as we have a common theme – sensitivity and tenderness.  This is achieved via minimal human interference and working delicately to bring out the Natural Terroir of our region – our soils, aspect, climate, and so we let nature define our wines!”

Ayana at the Winery

Ayana at the Winery

Sumi Sarma with Ayana Misawa

Sumi Sarma with Ayana Misawa

Meeting Ayana was truly a memorable experience I will always cherish. She exemplifies calmness, elegance equally having lot of style and substance and just like how children imbibe from their parents, I found her wines reflecting her warm personality. Shows how meticulously the grapes are tended to, indeed they are part of her family! 


2015 Decanter World Wine Awards 2015 Result Gold Medal and Regional Trophy : Grace Koshu Private Reserve 2014

2014 Decanter World Wine Awards 2014 Result Gold Medal and Regional Trophy: Cuvée Misawa Akeno Koshu 2013


Grace Wines are available at Selfridges and The Sampler. Their importer is Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines