About the Vine
The Vine Ltd is a small specialist wine importer based in Daikanyama, Tokyo, distributing high-quality, hand-crafted wines from the Rhône Valley, Provence, Languedoc, Roussillon and Catalonia in Japan to wholesalers, retailers, hotels, restaurants, bars and private customers.
Founded in 2003, The Vine Ltd is unique in Japan for its focus on the Rhône and for its close and personal relationship with all the winemakers and regions we work with. Founder and Buyer, James Dunstan, lives part of the year in Vacqueyras in the beautiful Southern Rhône, part of Provence, and spends 4 months a year visiting and tasting with all our producers as well as many others.
Our young team is passionate and knowledgeable about the wines we distribute and also regularly visits the regions we work with so that we all have an understanding and appreciation of the culture of this beautiful and rich part of the world. Indeed, The Vine Ltd is surely the only wine importer to make field trips to Ibiza to visit our wonderful producer there!
James has been passionate about the regions we work with since visiting many of them as a young boy on family holidays. The Southern Rhône Valley is one of the most beautiful vineyard regions in the world, occupying the north west corner of Provence. Here are lavender fields, garrigue (the herbs, thyme, rosemary, mint, sarriette, marjolaine), olive trees, beautiful old villages, colourful marketplaces, sunshine, great food and great wine. The Mediterranean sea is close, as are the mountains of Provence.
By way of background, James practised as a lawyer in London, studied wine, gained the WSET Diploma with Honours in 1997, taught wine in Tokyo and worked in a top London wine shop, before moving to Provence to work a vintage at Domaine de Cassan in Gigondas in 2000. He ended up staying in the region for a whole year, spending pretty much all his time visiting and getting to know producers, tasting wines and learning about the regions of the South of France. It was an interesting moment in the Rhône, too, for many of the new generation of winemakers, such as St Cosme, or Usseglio had just released their first great vintage, the 1998. This great experience enabled James to put together his dream portfolio of Rhône wines for Japan.
Our Wine Style
We love drinking wine and we want you to love drinking our wines. So, essentially, we only buy what we love to drink! We want wine to be an everyday pleasure, so we look for, above all, the quality of “drinkability”, which, for us, is all about freshness and elegance to balance the natural richness of wines from the regions we work with, at whatever price; and we believe an inexpensive wine can offer just as much pleasure, for the price, as an expensive wine, if well chosen. Just as in the other classic regions of France, Bordeaux and Burgundy, there are many styles of wine in the Rhône and there is perhaps a misperception about this in Japan; there are still many old-fashioned, somewhat heavy and dusty wines, and there are even more modern, extracted, powerful, overly opulent wines, made in a style much favoured by one of the world’s best known wine critics. We find both of these styles somewhat tiring and uninteresting. What we look for, instead, is wines made generally from organic or biodynamic vines, and made, as much as possible, with a lightness of touch in the cellar, preferably whole bunch (but depending on the Appellation), using wild yeasts and no additions other than a judicious amount, sometimes, of SO2. We like purity and complexity of fruit, but not just ‘fruity’ wines. We think very much about the structure of the wine when we buy it. We buy from producers who respect tradition but are always working to improve their wines, producers who, generally, carry out all the work themselves, in the vines, and in the cellar, so that their wines really are made by their own hand!
We don’t buy according to points or ratings, though many of our wines are highly rated, we don’t work with agents or brokers, we just follow our own taste and passion. We taste and re-taste obsessively before buying and really get to know the producer and his wines before working with him.
Our wines are shipped and stored as carefully as they are made, direct from the producer’s cellar by temperature controlled transport to our temperature controlled warehouse in Yokohama.