The Siren Call of Wine
Published: November 10, 2017
“Wine has taken over most of the shelves.”
Until roughly eighteen years ago, Midoriya was a neighbourhood sake store like many others, specializing in providing quality Japanese liquor to the hardworking men and women of Koto City. Then along came third-generation owner Mr. Kenij Maruyama, who decided that the time was ripe to expand into another genre: wine.
Though he jokingly cites the “cool” image associated with wine as the initial reason for this decision, it’s easy see where Mr. Maruyama is coming from. Wine is a naturally photogenic drink which carries connotations of elegance and maturity. It’s also extremely versatile, with a price range and flavour profiles that cover a wide variety of needs.
…and that versatility may or may not excuse the extensive collection Mr. Maruyama has managed to amass in the last two decades. Just look at this cellar!
“I took a tour in France with other liquor store owners, which kicked off my passion for wine. We were able to visit wineries, participate in tastings, and form business agreements with vineyards we wanted to import from. It was fascinating, and I became hooked.”
Mr. Maruyama still goes on the tour annually, meeting with wine-makers and diligently looking out for new and exciting wines to add to this store. He’s quite fond of unique, small-batch wines with strong characters. Consequently, Midoriya currently stocks around 500 types of wine!
Mr. Maruyama’s current favourite is natural wine—wine made with no chemicals added to aid with fermentation or preservation. Many natural wines are also organic by nature, and reflect honestly the conditions in which the grapes were grown as well as the people who had a hand in its making. They’re difficult to produce since the resulting taste can be inconsistent; however, Mr. Maruyama says they offer a uniqueness that cannot be found in more traditional wines.
“It’s definitely an acquired taste,” he adds. “People either love it or hate it. I can’t offer it in good conscience if I don’t know the customer’s preferences, but if they’re feeling adventurous…”
His current top pick is the above-pictured rosé wine made from Pinot Gris grapes. Its selling point is the beautiful coral colour and a mineral taste profile.
“It’s really refreshing. It’s got a flavour reminiscent of hard mineral water, but it’s still wine.” Hmm, sounds intriguing!
For those who are just getting into wine, Mr. Maruyama also has recommendations aplenty. These three are his picks for traditional wine, which are made using more standard methods, and which has proven to be popular with a wide range of customers.
“These are fail-proof favourites and you can almost never go wrong with them. But of course, if a customer tells me their preferences, I can help them find a wine that matches what they’re looking for.”
He even had ice wine from Canada, my home and native land, in his collection! Those who love sweet wines will appreciate this either as an aperitif or a dessert. (You’ll have to excuse my bias, but we Canadians are pretty proud of our ice wine.)
If you prefer to date around with your wines before committing to a whole bottle, Midoriya’s Wine Tasting Nights, held periodically on the weekends, are a dream come true. Mr. Maruyama opens around six bottles of wines with a colourful selection of flavours, which can be purchased by the glass for around 500~700 yen. Customers drink the wine casually while standing around the counter table set into the middle of the store. If you like what you taste, you can consider picking up a bottle on the way out.
Don’t want to drink on an empty stomach? These homegrown Japanese olives or delightful chocolate covered figs would pair nicely with the wines! There were also plenty of other nibbles in the store, including cheese, fresh bread, and more!
And for the knowledge-thirsty Readers who want to pick Mr. Maruyama’s brains for his dizzying knowledge on the subject, Midoriya regularly transforms into a neighbourhood wine school! There are courses for beginner, intermediate and advanced wine drinkers, which will help take your wine-drinking to the next level. All of the events and class schedules are found on Midoriya’s website (link down below) in Japanese, or you can always pop by and pay a visit to the friendly Mr. Maruyama in person.
With so many goings-on to manage, it would appear Mr. Maruyama has his hands full delivering the joy of wine to Koto City and beyond. His current dream though, is to one day open a wine and “donabe” restaurant. Donabe are traditional Japanese earthenware pots often used for making hot pot dishes and stews. The humble flavours of these recipes apparently go really well with wine.
For the moment however, he plans to continue pouring his heart and energy into maintaining Midoriya and providing a reliable, exciting haven for the wine-lovers in Tokyo. And to that, I say “Cheers!”
Story by Xianru Shen（Koto City Office Coordinator for International Relations）