Kusuda’s first dessert wine

Hiro Kusuda

Hiro Kusuda produces one of the country’s very best examples of syrah. (Photo: Bob Campbell MW)

Martinborough winemaker, Hiro Kusuda (tastings), is a remarkable man. His determination to produce great wine through meticulous viticulture and winemaking knows no bounds.

I have witnessed his labour intensive harvest, which must rate as the world’s most rigorous grape selection process. Voluntary helpers from Japan (they included a wine lecturer, a poet and owner of a large chain of wine bars) carefully select only the ripest and most perfect bunches each of which went through a second selection process to remove any berry with the tiniest blemish. That second process takes several minutes for each bunch, or so it seemed to me.

Several years ago I travelled with Hiro for two weeks visiting Japanese wineries and Sake breweries. My admiration for this intense and deeply intelligent man grew immensely during a fortnight in his company.

I recently visited Hiro at his Martinborough home. I re-tasted 2015 Kusuda Riesling (first tasted in February this year) and once again admired this bone-dry wine’s ethereal texture and restrained citrus and ginger flavours.

We then compared the excellent 2014 Kusuda Pinot Noir (tasted in April) with the recently bottled 2015 Kusuda Pinot Noir, which like the earlier wine has great power and subtlety, with a Burgundy-like linear structure and beautiful fruit. I won’t formally record my notes on this wine until it is released later this year or early next year. It deserves a little time in the bottle.

To demonstrate the ageing potential of his pinot noir Hiro opened a remarkable bottle of 2008 Kusuda Pinot Noir. When I tasted this wine six years ago I wrote: “It will age superbly”. It’s still fresh but deliciously accessible with layers of subtle fruit and spice flavours. Great now but no rush.

2008 Kusuda Syrah also demonstrated the wine’s remarkable ageing potential. Tantalisingly aromatic with a mix of violet, berry, spice and pepper flavours. That wine has the structure and intensity to continue developing for another decade.

The final offering was 2015 Kusuda Trockenbeerenauslese Riesling, picked at 43o Brix and with 173 gms of residual sugar. It has intense, waxy botrytis character that seems to enhance rather than compete with riesling varietal flavours of floral, citrus and spice. When I suggested that the wine had botrytis character of Sauternes rather than a tba German riesling, Hiro smiled and produced a bottle of 2010 Chateau Climens and a Framingham 2015 Trockenbeerenauslese Riesling for comparison. I thought that the Kusuda wine was better than both. It is certainly a very unique and distinctive wine that I promise to formally review when it is released sometime in the future.

Hiro told me how he had opened a bottle of his 2015 tba Riesling, which got significantly better after three weeks and was still good when he tasted wine from the opened bottle after six months.

Hiro studied winemaking at Geisenheim in Germany, but this is the first sweet wine he has made since graduating.

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