The Koshu grape is the most important grape variety native to Japan. It was developed from grapes that travelled the Silk Road across Central Asia from the Caucasus to China and then to Japan, at a period estimated to be around a thousand years ago.
The distinctively Japanese Koshu grape is grown primarily in Yamanashi Prefecture, whose climatic extremes of heat and cold, long days of summer sunlight, and well-drained volcanic soils are especially suited for cultivating grapes.
History records that winemaking in Japan was started in 1874 by individuals living in Yamanashi Prefecture’s Kofu City. The first winery where full-scale wine production began was established in 1879 in Iwaimura, now Koshu City’s Katsunuma-cho. The Dainippon Wine Co., Ltd., founded in 1877, had sent two young men to France. What they learned there led to the start of wine production in Japan using the native Koshu grape. Winegrowers worked tirelessly to improve the quality of their wines and, following the end of World War II, wine production increased dramatically. There are now 80 wineries in Yamanashi Prefecture.