Is this the first time for you to meet or even hear of the name – Muscat Bailey A? We hereby appreciate to talk about the Japanese new-comer red variety to the global wine society! Muscat Baily A (abbreviated as MBA) – produces very enjoyable wines demonstrating candy-sweet aroma, in gorgeous pinky-sexy red colour recently has nailed to be a representative variety of Japanese wines. Despite its name expresses ‘Muscat’, this is completely different from other cultivars such as Muscat family as table grapes or Muscadelle, a white variety. Muscat Bailey A is defined as a red wine grape variety that has black coloured skins on the berries, and is usually used for making still-red and rose wines. The variety was registered at the O.I.V (Office International de la vigne et du vin) based in France in 2013(i).
Besides Koshu (甲州) grapes in Japan, MBA is a unique cultivar to be introduced as Japanese representative wine grape variety for red wines. The sensory properties significantly consist of moderate tannin, soft acidity, brilliant pinky-purplish colour and “foxy” berry aromas. The story behind this variety is not that easy and simple, as it was started by one Japanese researcher dedicated all his life to discover then develop the variety to be rooting to his homeland.
The history of MBA begun in the early 1800’s(ii). A researcher Zembei Kawakami (川上善兵衛: 1868-1944), accredited as the father of Japanese wines started his research project in Niigata prefecture with 10,000 nursery seedlings to cross-breed multiple cultivars imported from several European regions(iii). His long “journey” across grape varieties resulted in findings that 40 test-seedlings successfully came to fruition in such a complicated, “moody” climate of Japan, situated being surrounded by mountains influence on its weather; chilling in winter and rainy and humid during summer. One of those successful seedlings was MBA, which was bred with Muscat Hamburg (Muskat Trollinger) and American labrusca table grapes of Bailey family (with hybrid inheritances of vitis labrusca and vitis lincecumii)(i). As the variety has physical property of thick skin with its berries in addition to its physiological behaviour of mid-budding and late-ripening during growing season(iv), MBA is potentially tolerant to fungus diseases caused by high-humidity during summer of Japan’s climate. In these days, production of MBA is undertaken by viticulturists spreading mainly from the middle of Honshu (本州), the mainland of Japan down to Kyushu (九州) region, the south, in where MBA seems to have assimilated into warm-humid climate. The production volume of MBA ranks first as red wine cultivar, and second in total Japanese wine production following Koshu (甲州) – white grape variety. The recent majour producing regions of MBA are Yamanashi, Nagano and Yamagata prefectures.(v)
Taste, Texture & Food Pairing
Taste, aroma and appearance of Muscat Baily A can hardly to be referred to other varieties because of its genetic background from inheritance of cross bred-genes. Most significantly, MBA is distinguished by its remarkable “strawberry” aroma. This varietal character is led by higher content of an aromatic compound – furaneol that is common with strawberries in MBA, comparing to other red wine varieties(vi). The varietal aroma is accentuated by its characteristic candy-sweet smell; red cherry and strawberry, with hint of smokey characters like cinnamon depending on winemaking technique implemented to fermentation and aging processes.
By MBA’s genetic factors inherited from table grapes, its grape components consist of bigger size of berries, compared to European vinifera wine grape cultivars like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. Its berries are made of dark-purple thick skin contains pale yellow green coloured flesh(vii). The colour intensity of MBA is not so high, hence it expresses charming and fancy pinky colour. In terms of its varietal colour of MBA, a study found that the content of phenolic compounds (majour driver to produce colour pigments in red wines) including anthocyanin in MBA was much lower than Cabernet Sauvignon(viii). Thus MBA’s brilliant pinky-red colour can be determined to be varietally distinctive.
Moderate bitterness, berry-sweet aroma and gentle tannin in the flavour create subtle texture to palate and it obviously performs well-pairing with taste of Japanese food tradition; grilled or dashi-poached & braised fish in sweet-soy Japanese style, tuna, teriyaki chicken as well as Cantonese cuisine style; braised shellfish/abalone. Along with its red-fruity aroma, the dry texture in the flavour with gentle acidity can complement comfortably with savoury meat cuisines; grilled salty-pork, braised roast duck/goose, that are worthy to try with indeed!
Our best recommendation
Aroma & Flavour :
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- Takata, K., Saitou, H., Misawa, S., Aruga, Y., Matsumoto, N., Goto, N., & Ueno, T. (2014). Registration of Muscut Bailey A for OIV-Background and its Characterization. Journal of the Brewing Society of Japan, 109(9), 624-631.
- Robinson, J., Harding, J., & Vouillamoz, J. (2012). Wine Grapes. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Adfo Books.
- Joetsu City Homepage. (2013, July 4). The Father of Japanese Grapes and Wine：Kawakami Zenbei. Retrieved April 29, 2020, from https://www.city.joetsu.niigata.jp/soshiki/kyousei/english-zenbei.html
- National Research Institute of Brewing. (2018, February). お酒のはなし ワイン 2 – Story of Alcohol Beverages: Wine 2. Retrieved April 29, 2020, from https://www.nrib.go.jp/sake/pdf/WineNo02.pdf
- National Tax Agency (Japan). (2020, February ). 国内製造ワインの概況（平成30年度調査分）- Domestic wine production in Japan (2018). Retrieved April 28, 2020, from https://www.nta.go.jp/taxes/sake/shiori-gaikyo/seizogaikyo/kajitsu/kajitsuh30.htm
- Kobayashi, H., Sasaki, K., Tanzawa, F., Matsuyama, S., Suzuki, S., Takata, R., & Saito, H. (2013). Impact of harvest timing on 4-hydroxy-2, 5-dimethyl-3 (2H)-furanone concentration in ‘Muscat Bailey A’grape berries. Vitis, 52(1), 9-11.
- Foods Link. (n.d.). Foods Link 旬の果物百科. Retrieved May 8, 2020, from https://foodslink.jp/syokuzaihyakka/syun/fruit/budou-MuscatBaileyA.htm
- Okuda, T., Furuya, S., Inoue, E., Chikada, Y., Ichikawa, M., Saito, F., & Hisamoto, M. (2014). Extraction of proanthocyanidins during fermentation of Muscat Bailey A and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. J. ASEV Jpn, 25, 90-96.