Narusawa’s Cabbage Wine

Wine connoisseurs may raise their eyebrows at the prospect of tasting cabbage wine, but it is a point of pride in Japan. The art of wine making is a painstaking and meticulous process that involves the careful cultivation of grapes. Grapes have a natural chemical balance that allows the fruit to ferment without having to add acids, sugars, water, enzymes, and other such ingredients. The sugars in the grapes are consumed by yeast, which turns the grape juices into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The many different types of grapes and yeast strains produce many varieties of wine. A lot of the well known wine variations are a result of the intricate mingling of the biochemical development in grapes that involves the fermentation process, the climate, the soil  and the handling of grapes.

Wine is usually made from one or more varieties of Vitis vinifera (Common Grape Vine). These types of wines include Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Gamay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. If one variety of grapes is used as a predominant ingredient combined with another type of fruit or the like, it is called a varietal. Blended wines  use a different style of wine making and blend different types of grapes.  Examples of this type are Rhone Valley and Bordeaux.


Yamanashi Prefecture in Japan is also popular for its fine wines. In this prefecture, just at the foot of Mt. Fuji, is a small town called Narusawa. The town is rich with their local crop: cabbage.

Cabbage patch, Japan. | James

The imaginative and enterprising people of Narusawa had to think of another way to make use of cabbages when there was an excess supply. Having too much cabbages resulted in its price plummeting in the market. The townspeople decided to make use of the abundant cabbages to make wine that can be sold all year round. They have been making cabbage wine for about 20 to 30 years.

Cabbage wine is made from 60% cabbages and 40% grapes. Grapes are essential in making cabbage wine, because cabbages do not have enough sugar content to ferment properly. The resulting wine is deep yellow in color. It has the distinct verdant flavor of cabbage, is sweet, and has a very mild taste of alcohol. The combination of flavors makes the wine unique. Cabbage wine is sold only at JA Narsawamura and the nearest highway rest stop in the area, and it costs about 1,300 yen for a bottle.