Japan: introducing a new frontier for fine wine

Japanese wine: key points

Hundred year-old wooden fermentation vats at Chateau Mercian’s new winery in Nagano

• The Japanese wine industry began in the 1870s.
• However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that the country experienced a boom in wine consumption, driven by western imported wines.
• A greater focus on high-quality domestic wine production was accelerated by a law change in 2004 that had prevented the establishment of boutique wineries.
• In October 2018, all Japanese wine must be made from grapes grown in Japan – preventing a long-time practice of importing wine from abroad, bottling it in Japan, then labelling it as a product of the country.
• Today, wine is made in 42 of Japan’s 47 prefectures.
• The production of Japanese wine totals around 22m bottles per year, with more than half from Yamanashi and Nagano, and a further 15% from Hokkaido (which is home to Japan’s largest single winery, Hokkaido Wein).
• Currently, there are around 300 wineries in Japan.
• The most planted grape is Koshu, followed by Muscat Bailey A – both of which are hybrid grapes – although plantings of Merlot and Chardonnay are increasing.

This report and the visits that took place to produce it were supported by The Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Centre (JFOODO), which was established in April 2017 within The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). This article first appeared in the October issue of The Drinks Business.

Takahiko Saga from Hokkaido’s Domaine Takahiko

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