Japan sharpens wine laws

Japan is tightening rules for its wine industry, requiring all products labelled as Japanese wine to be made entirely from grapes grown within the country.

Japan's Koshu vineyards

Japan’s Koshu vineyards

At the moment around 75% of grapes or concentrated must in Japanese wine are imported, in contrast to most major wine producing nations where strict regulations govern country of origin labelling. Imported raw materials will still be permitted in Japan, but producers will be forced to declare this on their labels.

The new rules will also require Japanese wines stating a particular region on their label to include at least 85% of their fruit from that area. In addition, producers will have to state whether the locations of their vineyards and winery are different.

According to The Japan News, an official from the country’s National Tax Agency explained that the move, which will not be implemented for a further two years, “will make it easier for consumers to distinguish these wines and also help winemakers promote their products overseas.”

While most Japanese wine is consumed domestically, groups such as Koshu of Japan have carried out a sustained export drive in recent years, exhibiting at ProWein and winning listings in high profile UK restaurants.

However some producers have expressed concern that the tighter regulations will lead consumers to view wine made from imported grapes as being an inferior product, while also making it difficult to guarantee a reliable supply of wine.

One winemaker from Yamanashi Prefecture, a region which accounts for around 40% of the country’s wine, told The Japan News: “The production volume of grapes is declining as it is difficult for grape farmers to find successors. I wonder if they will be able to have a steady harvest, which is also heavily influenced by weather.”

Although there are over 100 wineries across Japan, a 2014 report by the US Department of Agriculture suggested that 80% of production comes from just five major producers.

Domestic products account for around one third of Japan’s total consumption, which according to a study released last year by Vinexpo has risen in recent years to hit 34.6m nine-litre cases by 2012, making this country the third largest wine market in Asia Pacific after China and Australia.

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