Chateau Mercian (pg. 52)
Viticulture has a long history in Japan, with various stories surrounding its origins. The most widely accepted is that in 718 AD a Buddhist monk planted the first vineyards near Katsunama, southwest of Tokyo. Today, Japan has more than 17,800 hectares of vines, over 40% of which can be found in the Yamanashi Prefecture. Along with Yamanashi the main regions also include Nagano, Yamagata and Hokkaido. Local production is primarily from ten major wineries who represent 98.7% of wine produced in Japan.
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz Koshu, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
Wine consumption in Japan has been steadily growing since the 1970’s and the pace of this has seen a surge since 2008. As with almost all consumer behavior in Japan, craftsmanship and quality is scrutinized and sought after which has resulted in fine wines seeing more growth than entry level products. A recent estimate listed Japan as 10th in the world for volume of wine imported, but 5th for value of wine imported, showing a penchant for higher priced wines.
1.52 million Total 2014 wine exports (USD)
2nd Only China imports more wine than Japan
219 million Liters of wine imported in 2014
52% of imported wine to Japan comes from France
Fine French wine is still the first choice on many wine lists in Japan alongside other traditional choices. Tokyo in particular boasts an unrivaled amount of high end culinary offerings which has helped drive the need for fine wine offerings to match. That being said, the overall volume of wine consumed still comes up against strong competition from beer, spirits and sake products. A growing trend towards appreciating local craftsmanship however is evident and bodes well for local Japanese wineries whose commitment to quality over decades is now garnering well earned local and international recognition.
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