Japan’s love of fizz extends to Chilean sparkling wine

Japan has emerged as one of the fastest-growing major markets for Champagne, but it’s become a significant importer of Chilean sparkling wine too.

As much as 60% of Chilean sparkling wine exports go to Japan

Indeed, so important is the Japanese market today for Chilean fizz, the county chose the Asian nation to launch a new collective brand for sparkling wine from Chile, called Espumante Chile.

First unveiled in Tokyo’s Ginza district in October last year, the new name for Chilean fizz, which can be used by both traditional and tank-method sparklers, comes with certain restrictions on yields and sweetness levels.

According to Brett Jackson, chief winemaker at Viña Valdivieso – Chile’s largest producer of sparkling wine – the generic fizz brand is being both launched and tested in Japan because this single nation accounts for almost two-thirds of all Chilean sparkling exports.

“Japan is the market for Chilean sparkling wine, and 60% of the exports of Chilean sparkling wine go to Japan, and the numbers are growing,” Jackson told the drinks business at the start of this year.

He also told db that Chile’s total production of sparkling wine is estimated to be around 18m bottles, and 95% of that is made using the tank or Charmat-method.

Valdivieso, which accounts for around 40% of Chile’s sparkling wine output, has invested in developing exports, and has been “doing very well in Japan”, according to Jackson.

However, he said that Valdivieso has struggled to gain a foothold in the UK market for its sparkling wines. “We have been trying for many years with the UK, but we’ve met a lot of resistance: first there was competition from Cava, and today it is Prosecco,” he said.

He also mourned the situation in Venezuala, once a major market for Chilean fizz, but decimated due to the social and economic crisis in the country. “Venezuala was a very strong market, but today it is almost zero; it is so sad to see what’s happening in Venezuala, and all the skilled people are leaving the country,” he recorded.

Valdivieso is Chile’s largest producer of sparkling wine

Such issues aside, Jackson said that Valdivieso’s sparkling wine business had grown by 10% in value last year as consumers switched to more expensive expressions, moving up from Brut to Extra Brut styles, and from tank- to traditional-method fizz.

Speaking about the market in Chile specifically, he also observed that the sparkling-over-ice category was on the up, pioneered by Champagne Moët’s Ice Imperial and augmented by a similar product from Cava brand Freixenet.

Among Chilean sparkling wine makers, he said that Viña San Pedro had launched a fizz designed to be served over ice, and that Valdivieso was adding one to its line-up too.

Finally, he showed db a Moscato d’Asti-style sparkling that he has made using Muscat of Alexandria from the Itata region, in southern Chile.

A trial bottling will be launched onto the domestic market at the end of this year with a 9.5% abv and 60g/l of residual sugar.

The top three largest producers of sparkling wine in Chile are, in order of size, Valdivieso, Viña San Pedro and Undurraga.

As db reported in March this year, concerning Champagne consumption, Japan has grown by 21% in value and 18% in volume [in 2017], meaning that it is now a bigger market than Germany in value and volume.

Importing almost 13 million bottles of Champagne in 2017, Japan is still less than half the size of the Champagne market in the UK – the largest in the world by volume at 27.7m bottles – but, in terms of value, Japan’s market is two-thirds the size of Britain’s.

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