FULL DISCLOSURE: I should have written this a year ago, don’t @ me.
While in Tokyo *last year* Geoff and I discovered (much to our delight) the Tokyo wine scene is straight poppin’! An abundance of natural wine “stands” - named for their diminutive size and in general, standing room only floor plans - dot the city map. Wine havens like Wine Stand Bouteille and Ahiru Store can be found tucked away down back alleys, in basements of office buildings and even smack dab in the middle of Shibuya (the Times Sq. of Tokyo). In addition to these adorable wine closets, almost every restaurant we encountered had a wine list filled with allocated juice. Most of our discoveries were natty wines coming in from Australia, though at the charming Goût de Jaune, a downstairs dive into the wines of Jura, we happily sipped on splashes on Puffeney and Overnoy. We even attended a natural wine fair at a farmers market (One Love, Wine Love) where we drooled over local produce and tasted an array of natural Japanese wine. There are some very interesting wines coming out of Japan, namely by The Grape Republic, from the Yamagata region, keep an eye out for when these start trickling in from overseas.
One common thread was the incredible hospitality; every place we went we were greeted with unwavering welcome and generosity. At Ahiru Store, we were offered a glass of any wine we wanted, whether it was on the BTG list or not. At Winestand Waltz, we merely asked “what is that?” to the stranger beside us, and he immediately cut his onion tart in half to share. In this industry sometimes I see peers questioning who is worthy of this rare wine or that special experience. But in Tokyo, even though we weren’t the cool kids, we could still sit with them, AND drink their Capri Sun.
1 Chome-25-10 Shibuya, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0002, Japan
Down a charming AF back alley off the main drag Shibuya Station, we went here twice and drank more Australian wines than I had in the past 10 years combined.
2F, 7-10-2 Roppongi, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, 106-0032
THE BEST STEAK I’VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. I could say it again, but you get the idea. In addition to THE BEST STEAK I’VE EVER HAD, this was one of Tokyo’s first natural wine bars to hit the scene. Here is me holding Domaine Saurigny for the first time. Pure magic that place.
4 Chome-24-3 Ebisu, 渋谷区 Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0013, Japan
Owner Yasuhiro Ooyama was kind enough to open his last bottle of Beau Paysage Chardonnay, a coveted natural Japanese wine from Yamanashi.
1 Chome-19-4 Tomigaya, 渋谷区 Shibuya City, Tokyo 151-0063, Japan
Ahiru store had a line formed outside a half hour before they opened. So yeah. Great wine list but was really surprised by the food, the sashimi had me shooketh.
1 Chome-18-1 Nihonbashikakigaracho, Chuo City, Tokyo 103-0014, Japan
La Pioche is known for amazing French food by Shinya Hayashi. It’s located on the outskirts of town so plan a bit of time to get there.
Goût DE JAUNE
Japan, 〒107-0052 Tokyo, Minato City, Akasaka, 2 Chome−19−4 関ビルＢ1階
All Jura wine list! This wine geek’s wet dream is located in the basement of a office building, which unless you read Japanese is kind of tough to find. But well worth it.
4 Chome-2-14 Nishiazabu, Minato City, Tokyo 106-0031, Japan
Located in a traditional restored Japanese house, head here for seasonal Japanese “farm to table” cuisine.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to hit up every wine bar and restaurant in Tokyo - but stay tuned: we're starting a Go-Fund Me page for trip #2.
Special thanks to Masa Yamashita for many of these recommendations and help on our trip! Hope to see you again soon buddy.