Kitani Wine

Kashiba, Nara


Kazuto Kitani, born in 1989, was the youngest person in Japan to start his own winery in 2022, and is truly representative of the next generation of vignerons. The winery he founded is also the first winery in Nara.

His career began, unexpectedly, as a banker. After graduating from the postgraduate course at Kyoto University, he worked at a bank. He became interested in winemaking after repeatedly visiting Katashimo Winery in Osaka, which was one of the customers.

Gradually, he became fascinated by winemaking and visited wineries in the Kansai region for a tour. There, he was surprised to find that grape cultivation and winemaking were taking place in locations that were not necessarily in the countryside.

“If wine can be made in the area around where I live, I might be able to make it my career. I think I will never get tired of pursuing the question of what the terroir of Nara is, the place where I was born and brought up.”

This is how he began his career as a vigneron.

He did postgraduate research on diabetes prevention. He was a science student, so he has a good grounding in science. Besides, diabetes, which he was researching, and winemaking have something in common in terms of diet and exercise. He thought he might be able to make use of his previous experience.

In addition, he has always had an interest in manufacturing.

“Making wine is about how you approach the ever-changing conditions of the year, such as the weather, and how you express yourself. Wine that reflects the land you live in and your ideas is interesting as a craft.”

After learning the basics of viticulture and winemaking for about two years at Katashimo Winery and Tenshi no Hane Winery in Osaka, Kunitsu Wine in Mie, he became an independent grape grower. He then established his own winery in June 2022.


After becoming independent, he rented three vineyards and started growing grapes. One was an abandoned plot of land of about 40a in Tenri, Nara. The other two were rented in Osaka: a 13a vineyard in Habikino and a 4a vineyard in Kashiwara.

However, when he actually started, he realised that Nara has little farmland suitable for viticulture.

“The name 'Nara' originally refers to a gently sloping land, with many rice fields. This was inconvenient for grapes, which prefer sloping, well-drained land. The historical nature of the land has also backfired, as the land in Nara has been subdivided into smaller areas over its long history. It is therefore difficult to secure farmland of a coherent size and to work it efficiently. Another factor is that the elevation is not as high as in Yamanashi, the most famous prefecture for viticulture and winemaking in Japan, so there is little difference in temperature between day and night. The southern part of the prefecture, which is at a higher altitude, has the necessary temperature differences for wine grapes, but it is also a rainy area, so it is not suitable for wine grapes.”

Nevertheless, his motivation to make wine in Nara is driven by his curiosity about the terroir of the place. It is an interesting trend for the next generation of vignerons to set up their own winery in a place that is not necessarily the most suitable for growing grapes, and to aim for wines that can only be made there.

The vineyards, which total approximately 1 ha in total, are currently scattered across 10 locations and are planted with approximately 20 varieties. In addition to the three previous vineyards, he has acquired vineyards with predominantly volcanic ash and sandy soils. Several abandoned vineyards were very difficult to cultivate, with old Pergola systems buried in the ground. The unusable Pergolas were removed and the grapes were planted with Vertical Shoot Positioning.

One variety that he has particularly high hopes for is Delaware. The reason is that in the Kansai region, including Nara, it ripens with a certain degree of acidity remaining in a stable manner and old vines are present.

“The terroir of Nara is microclimatic and the soils are divided into sandy and clay soils, depending on the region. Like nearby Osaka, the high temperatures during the harvest season give the wines a tropical fruit aroma, especially in the case of Delaware. However, as the temperatures are not as high as in Osaka, it is felt that the flavour is a little milder.”

In order to improve the quality of the grapes and to pursue the terroir of Nara, he practices organic viticulture in his own vineyards. No herbicides or chemical fertilisers are used, and only Bordeaux mixture and sulphur-based spray are used as a minimum.

“If we use pesticides, the yield should be higher and it should be less work, but I'm concerned about the natural order of things, what creatures and plants will appear when nothing is sprayed. Besides, I think the real appeal of grape growing is that rather than an average score every year, you get a swing and a miss, but also a home run.”

He also places great importance on 'subtraction' in grape cultivation. This means allowing a large number of branches to produce a large number of bunches, removing them at the right time and determining how to feed the remaining bunches of grapes. In the vineyards, both Pergola and Vertical Shoot Positioning are used.

He makes wine not only from its own vineyards, but also from grapes grown by other growers. Behind this is the desire to contribute to the local community. With his winery as a starting point, he is looking to collaborate with other farmers and revitalise local agriculture.

“Eventually, I'd be happy if some of the people younger than myself decide they want to make wine in Nara.”


In the vineyard and in the winery, the choices available and the timing of these choices are limitless. The resulting wines are therefore an expression of the winemaker's philosophy and way of life.

In vinification, he places great importance on "not adding anything" in order to maximise the potential of the grapes and express the terroir of Nara. He does not add cultured yeasts or sulphites, nor does he use chaptalisation or filtration. Even the off-flavours are used at risk.

Thus, his aim is to produce wines that are as pleasant to drink as water.

“I think water is the best expression of Japanese terroir and the easiest liquid to drink down. I feel that this natural and pleasant slurping is a characteristic of Japanese wines. I feel that this is made possible by the climate with a lot of rainfall and soft water, which is different from suitable growing regions overseas. My aim is to make wines that are as pleasant to drink as water, but with the complexity of Dashi.”

His other goal is to "make Dom Pérignon with Delaware".

“Delaware has shown great potential as a raw material for sparkling wine. However, until now, Delaware has had the image of cheap wine. In the future, I want to change that and produce something of the highest quality.”

Finally, we asked him what his winery's logo meant.

“It represents the grapevine's roots reaching out in three directions to intersect. In the soil, physics, chemistry and biology merge, or at the bar, you, someone else and wine. I think something interesting happens when these three elements come together."

He hopes that such 'communion' will happen not only in Japan, but also in the Netherlands and Europe.

“Honestly I'm still not sure if people who know the wines of the real world will drink wines made in Japan, which is said to be an unsuitable growing region, but I hope they will enjoy its comfortable drinking quality and its compatibility with Japanese cuisine."

Image above: Ground-breaking ceremony to pray for the safety of the construction work by worshipping the gods of the land before laying the foundations of the winery.