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Japan steps up domestic wine output

One of Japan’s largest wine producers has announced plans to almost double its vineyard area to meet growing domestic demand for this small scale industry.

The wines of Japanese producer Chateau Mercian
The wines of Japanese producer Chateau Mercian

According to The Japan Times, Mercian has confirmed a move to add 20 hectares to its existing 21.5ha holdings, as well as expanding its grower contracts.

The producer, a subsidiary of Japanese brewing giant Kirin, is best known for its Chateau Mercian brand and manages vineyards in the Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures.

Its current range includes indigenous variety Koshu, as well as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and the pink-skinned grape Muscat Bailey A that is widely planted in Japan.

Although one Japanese wine secured a listing with a UK supermarket group earlier this year, the majority of this country’s small production is consumed domestically.

Much of this output is bulked up with imported grape juice; however recent years have seen a move towards promoting wines made entirely from grapes grown in Japan. Earlier this year the Japanese government began drafting a new law that would set up a national geographic indication system for the country’s wines.

Even so, The Japan Times estimates that this local wine accounts for just 2% of the country’s total wine market – the third largest in Asia Pacific after China and Australia. However, the paper reported that local wine production has increased by 5% annually in recent times, driven in part by its good match with much Japanese cuisine.

Data from Vinexpo points to a major rise in the country’s overall wine consumption, which rose by 30.95% between 2008 and 2012 to hit 415 million bottles. Looking ahead, Vinexpo predicted that consumption would grow by a further 3.27% between 2013 and 2017 to reach 445m bottles.

Despite reported increases in its domestic wine production, Japan has seen the most notable rise in its imported wine market, with the country consuming almost 40% more imported wine in 2012 than 2008.

However, Vinexpo indicated that the current level of imported wine was now set to remain stable, reaching a predicted 300.24m bottles annually by 2017, equivalent to two thirds of the country’s total consumption.

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