Japan Eats

Bar review: La Cave Idéale (Kagurazaka)

This wine shop doubles as a standing wine bar and is open from 11:00 to 24:00 every day. Three round tables in the center of the shop allow customers to gaze at the bottles in the glass cases while drinking a glass from the ever-changing lineup displayed on the ‘tachinomi counter’. Wine is typically 500-2,000 yen per glass.

Finger food are also available for purchase with a small variety of cheeses, olives, and other snacks (mostly 300 yen) being peddled from the glass cooler perched on the counter. A small two-piece pack of bread is 50 yen, and don’t be afraid to use the toaster located on the wall opposite the register.

As mentioned before, the wine selection changes periodically as this shop imports directly from vineyards

'Tachinomi' is Japanese for 'drink while standing'.

and dealers in France. That means that they often have wine that you can’t get in most other places.

The “Domaine des Chênes — Le Mascarou 2005” was dry enough for my liking and was priced at 900 yen per

glass. Another wine that I tried was the “Domaine du Pas de L’Escalette — Ze rozé 2008” (700 yen/glass) which is apparently one of their monthly featured wine selections and will be replaced soon.

This shop is very well-lit, so it’s often a quick stop on the way somewhere else for business people and small groups of friends. The staff is very cheerful and helpful, and the paintings on the wall would be in my living room if they were up for sale.

Directions: From exit two of Kagurazaka station (Tozai subway line) go left and walk for about 30 seconds. La Cave Idéale is on the left just after “M’s”. You can also take exit one of the station and turn right. The wine shop will be on your right before “M’s”.

Boozehound: Beaujolais Nouveau 2009 hits shelves today!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and what a nice coincidence that the young wines of Southern Europe have just arrived!

Released on the third Thursday of November every year, French distributors such as the inimitable Georges Deboeuf and Mommessin, Beaujolais Nouveau has been a marketing sensation around the world for a number of years now. Tastings, club parties, and high-priced dinners abound, and it wasn’t too long ago that customers would wait in line to sweep bottles of the fruity red wine off the shelves of their local retailer.

Beaujolais Nouveau on display in a Tokyo convenience store.

Beaujolais Nouveau on display in a Tokyo convenience store.

Such was certainly the case here in Japan, the land of ‘if it’s French, then we naturally understand and will pay through the nose for it‘. During the height of the craze, well over 12 million bottles of the stuff were purchased at an average price of around 2,000 yen (US$20, give or take). That was back in 2004 when the marketing machine had everyone enthused that Japan was among the first to taste these young wines due to a simple advantage afforded by geographical location.

But this is 2009. Less than five million bottles are slated for sale this year, and many of them will be sold in plastic PET bottles (cork or screwtop?). The price has also dropped considerably with supermarket group, Aeon, slashing prices to less than 1,000 yen (around US$10).

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