Jun 1, 2012
Francesco Agresti

Jip Wine Bar & Wine Shop

By Jeff W. Richards

Propped up at the timber counter—a tasting flight of red wine in front of him channeling crimson hues of strawberries and garnets—the completely lost Belgian tourist seemed rather content. “I was trying to find a jazz bar and ended up here,” he explained. “Who’d have thought the Japanese could make decent wine?”

Who indeed. That preconception is one that Jip Wine Bar & Wine Shop, a Japanese cave du vin in Shinjuku Ni-chome, is hoping to dispel. A combination of wine bar, bottle shop and comfortable place to drop by for a mostly French-cum-Italian-inspired bite to eat, Jip offers about 20 rotating wines by the glass and some 100 labels in the shop to take home or drink on the premises—but for an astonishing ¥1,500 corkage fee.

With its warm, timber tones, sprawling counter, red awning and parquetry, Jip screams “wine bistro.” Located just off the Shinjuku-dori drag, Jip’s best seats—in summer, anyway—are by the entrance window.

Service is attentive but not overbearing, and the enthusiastic staff are happy to guide you through the menu. That said, there are disparities between staff members in terms of wine knowledge, and on one visit, there was confusion over whether a particular wine was oxidized or had cork taint. Nevertheless, Jip takes its wine seriously, and there is little doubt that any hiccups will be ironed out as the enterprise finds its feet.

There are a couple of perennial workhorses on the by-the-glass list, though the selection changes fairly regularly—as testified by a couple of visits less than a month apart. What stays the same, however, is a strong legion of youthful whites and malleable reds—styles well suited to the vino-friendly food.

Some Japanese dishes are thrown in for good measure—kimpira, niku jaga, niku miso pasta—and typical bar snacks (olives, blue cheese canapés, mixed nuts, all circa ¥350-¥700) abound. The chef has worked at other bars and it’s all reasonable fare. But at Jip, the focus is on the wine.
Running the gamut from sparkling to dessert wine and everything in-between, Jip’s wines hail from Hokkaido to Kyushu and are a geographically egalitarian bunch. A fair whack, however, is devoted to Yamanashi, due to the area’s specialization in the Koshu grape varietal.

Wines from the sparkling list—an Asamachi Muscat Bailey A rosé (¥500) and a Tokiwa Hyogo sparkling (¥700)—were marked by an overwhelming sweetness, with berry cordial and sherbet tones, respectively, dominating the palate. More success was had with the still fruity but more astringent Lumiere Koshu Sur Lie (also ¥500), a white redolent of lychees and delivering of a medium finish.

Much lighter than Western whites, the wine would certainly complement the restraint and austerity of Japanese food. But nevertheless, it also paired well with the garlic toast (¥350), and, surprisingly, with the marinated mushrooms (¥500), a verdant salad-like dish featuring slippery shimeji and other fungi.

Of the reds on offer, the oak-matured 2nd Chanter Wine Muscat Bailey A Plus (¥600) was the star of the evening. Produced with Burgundy vinification, the well-balanced and elegant drop hinted at Beaujolais and nicely set off the rustic ratatouille (¥700). It also partnered well with an amply-sized plate of grilled tuna and swordfish (¥1,100).

Opened by a former wine wholesaler who saw a gap in Tokyo’s burgeoning wine bar market, Jip is a welcome addition to the city’s drinking scene. Japanese wine might be sake, beer and shochu’s baby brother, but Jip looks set to dispel any myths that the beverage can’t hold its own.

And we can all, whether lost tourist or long-term resident, be thankful for that.


[Menu] Menu in English

[Price] ¥300 per person table charge, glass wine from ¥400 onwards

[Smoking] No nonsmoking seats

[Seats] Window side for people watching is the best choice


2-7-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
Tel: 03-6380-1178
Open: Open Mon-Sat, 5-11pm (LO: 10:30pm)
Nearest stn: Shinjuku-Gyoenmae, Shinjuku-Sanchome

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