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Renewed investment in Japanese wine as beer sales contract

Published:  26 January, 2016

Japan's drinks manufacturers are exploring the potential for winemaking in the country as the nation's drinkers turn away from beer, according to a report in the Nikkei Asian Review.

Sales at Japan's five leading brewers have declined every year in the last decade, the paper says.

Suntory Wine International, which has vineyards in Tomi No Oka Winery in Yamanashi and the Iwanohara in Niigata Prefecture, has already begun growing the native Muscat Baily A grape varietal in Yamagata Prefecture.

Muscat Bailey A  became the second Japanese grape varietal to be recognised by the Paris-based International Organisation of Vine and Wine in 2013, following from Koshu in 2010.

Elsewhere, Chateau Mercian, a leading Japanese producer and importer based in the Yamanashi Prefecture, is looking to expand its production in anticipation of a growing market for Japanese wine both domestically and internationally.

It has rented some land in Nagano Prefecture, to the north of Yamanashi, and plans to start planting vineyards there in 2017, production manager Takayuki Tamura told Nikkei Asian Review.

The company also plans to acquire an additional 40 hectares of vineyards over the next ten years.

It invested some £5.8 million on developing its winery in 2010.

Japan currently has two AOC-style systems in place to regulate production. The first was introduced in Nagano Prefecture in 2002 and the second by Yamanashi Prefecture in 2010.

Japanese wine sells around 11.4 million bottles a year at present, the paper reports. However, the country currently imports around 87 million bottle of French wine alone.

Sales of domestic wines account for only 3.5% of sales, according to figures from Pernod Ricard Japan.

Japan is the second biggest importer of wine in the Asia-Pacific region and the sixth biggest in the world.    

Suntory Wine International is a subsidiary of Beam Suntory, created by the 2014 acquisition of the US Beam Inc by Japan's Suntory.