January 7, 2014
Bathing In Wine At The Japanese Wine Spa
A while ago I wrote about how the world is facing a serious wine shortage. Part of this problem is due to unhelpful weather conditions in Europe in recent years, but it is also down to the ever increasing demand of the Asian market.
Since writing that article, I have watched the documentary movie Red Obsession, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, himself a winemaker as well as filmmaker. The documentary is narrated by Russell Crowe, who has been known to enjoy a tipple or two. The subject is primarily Bordeaux wines, and how China has become obsessed with the higher end of those classic French reds. They are seen as status symbols and accessories, just like designer handbags and sports cars. The prices people in China are prepared to pay are skewing the market, and many wine traders now never see the bottles they make money from.
So, there was me thinking (God not pulling his weight weather-wise aside) that the world wine shortage was down to ostentatious, newly-rich Chinese people and a little bit the fault of Russell Crowe. But now I discover it is people in my adopted Japan who are guiltier of wasting wine than anyone. The Chinese might use it to show off at parties, but at least they drink it too. Here in Japan, people are bathing in it.
The Yunessun Spa Resort south of Tokyo is the grandest of Japan’s highly popular and widespread bathing resorts. They boast 25 different kinds of water-based facilities, including baths in the Roman and Turkish Hamam styles. But most novel of all are the spas filled with huge quantities of liquid usually reserved for drinking.
These include the Coffee Spa, which the site claims “is an effective treatment from the recovery of fatigue, and also adds beauty to the skin. The aroma of the coffee will also perk up your senses.” Slightly odd, that one, but at least it is only about one part coffee to ten or more parts water. If they make it like transport café coffee then they wouldn’t really have to use much coffee at all. The same goes for the Green Tea Spa, which “contains Catechin, a powerful anti-oxidant fighting tumors as well as enhancing the immune system. Also, good for the skin.” This spa boasts a huge teapot which is 2m tall.
The wine spa though, makes no mention of watering down the wine. It appears that it is simply a bath full of huge amounts of wine, which “is a rejuvenation treatment for the body, and it has been said that the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra loved to bath in wine.” Cleopatran indulgence is just what the poor old wine industry needs right now.
I don’t know what sort of wines go into the wine spa, except that around November time it is Beaujolais nouveau, to mark that wine’s annual release. I can live with that, because I’m not too keen on Beaujolais nouveau. I can live with the sake spa too, because I’m not that keen on sake. But by God if I find out they have been putting Châteauneuf-du-Pape in there, I’m handing back my visa.