Production and consumption of wine in Japan

Session 8  AIDV Conference 2011

                                       Teiji Takahashi, Tokyo University, Japan

Abstract
After long period of very little consumption of wine since the beginning of production in 1870’s, wine consumption has been well integrated in daily life in Japan in recent years. To meet the increasing of consumption of wine, three categories of wine are supplied at the moment. These are imported wine (70%), wine made of imported materials (20%) and wine produced of grapes grown in Japan (10%). In recent 20 years, the quality of Japanese wine has been substantially improving, adopting European varieties and overcoming unfavorable climate conditions. In these days, high quality Japanese wines represent originality attributed to regions. Under the intensification of globalization of wine trade, Japanese wine would go to the direction of  higher quality, in view of survive in Japanese market as well as in the international market. In this connection, the legal framework needs to support this development by adopting of wine law including a system of geographical indication (GI).

1  Evolution of consumption and production of wine in Japan
In Japan, wine production started in the middle of 1870’s, just after the Meiji restoration. The new government encouraged the production of wine, in view of saving rice consumption to be used for making alcohol. However, Japanese lands were contaminated by phylloxera since 1884. Moreover, the wine was not totally familiar with consumers, due to the dominant traditional  eating habit. Therefore, real wine was replaced by sweetened wine in the Japanese market. It was around 1970’s that Japanese consumers were able to appreciate real wine, under changing dietary pattern. Tokyo Olympic Games of 1964 and Osaka international exhibition of 1970 triggered the increase of consumption of wine. Through the substantial increase of consumption influenced by the French paradox in 1997and 98, the consumption of wine has reached the level of 2,500KHL (per adult 24 HL, Tokyo 58HL). Then, the consumption is still increasing, despite other alcohol such as Sake has been declining. The wine is now well integrated in Japanese daily life, while the volume of consumption per capita is still limited.

                 Evolution of wine supply and consumption in Japan KHL

 

1979

1984

1989

1994

2004

2007

2008

Domestically produced wine

360

540

700

640

800

810

830

Imported wine

120

230

670

820

1,610

1,570

1,630

Total supply

480

760

1,370

1,460

2,410

2,380

2,460

Consumption/adult(HL/year)

6

9

15

15

23

23

24

            Source: Ministry of finance

With regard to the production of wine, it was difficult to rapidly increase the production of grapes to meet such increasing wine consumption, because of poor experience of growing wine grapes under the unfavorable climate conditions, and the vulnerability of agriculture. Then, a large part of supply has been provided by the production of wine made of imported materials (mainly concentrated grape juice). This type of ordinary wine, of which quality was continuously improved by large wineries, contributed to increasing wine consumption. The share of this type of wine is around 24%. Then four major producers, Mercian (Kirin), Suntory, Manns (Kikkoman) and Sapporo provide almost 80% of wine made in Japan.

It should be noted that the import of wine is the most dominant contributor to meet the increasing demand of wine in Japan. The import of wine which provides both ordinary wine and quality wine has been substantially increasing and represents more than 65% in the total supply of wine in Japan at the moment.       

                  Wine production and consumption in Japan   2008

 

Volume of wine

Type of wine

Share

Types of producers

Domestically

Produced wine

 

Wine produced by Japanese grapes

250 KHL  (150 KHL produced by grapes grown by famers)

Quality wine

Medium wine

10.1%

large, medium and small size wineries

Wine produced by imported juice

580 KHL

Table wine

23.6

Mainly large wineries

Imported wine

 

1,630 KHL

Table wine

Quality wine

 

66.3

large, medium and small size importers

Total

2,460 KHL

 

100.0

 

   Source: Ministry of finance, Ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Estimation of wine industry

                      Concentration of wine production in Japan

                        (domestically produced wine)

 

1997

1998

1999

2000

Mercian

26.0 %

25.6 %

23.2 %

29.0 %

Suntory

23.7

22.2

21.5

26.3

Sapporo

9.3

10.2

 8.5

9.5

Manns

8.4

9.9

 8.5

9.5

Sainte neige

NA

 4.6

 4.4

5.3

Others

NA

27.5

23.9

20.4

                 Source: Monthly report of statistics of liquors and foods

2  Improvement of quality of Japanese wine and its character attributed to origin
During recent 20 years, remarkable changes have been observed in the production and consumption of wine in Japan. As consumers understood wine as well as its taste and related culture under the increased consumption, they have been interested in higher quality of Japanese wine. In addition, in order to make Japanese wine to survive in the globalization of trade, high quality wine was needed in the production of Japanese wine. In this context, incessant efforts have been made at first by large wineries, carrying out experimentations and trials to adopt some vitis vinifera varieties to Japanese environment. Some European varieties such as chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, have become possible to grow. Receiving the transfer of the developed technology, small and medium size producers in regions have started or restored the production of wine. In addition, producers have realized that growing good grapes is the most important factor to produce quality wine. Then, many wineries prefer to grow grapes in their own vineyard, instead of purchasing grapes grown by farmers. Previously wineries could not own their agricultural land by the agricultural land law regulation.

Due to these changes above, the quality of Japanese wine made of grapes grown in Japan has been remarkably improved in recent 20 years. As long as high quality is pursued, wines could represent originality and character to be attributed to the grape growing regions. Consumers have appreciated very much these originalities and characters of wine. This phenomenon has been accelerating the improvement of quality of Japanese wine in recent years.

In late 1980's quality Japanese wines began to receive gold medals and other medals in international competitions. These are, for example, "Tomi" of Suntory, "Jonohira Cabernet Sauvignon", "Kikyogahara merlot" and "Hokusin chardonnay" of Mercian, which encouraged the production of better quality wine. Since 2003, the competition of wines of Japan held regularly in Yamanashi prefecture, which helps improvement of quality of wine in Japan. Not only large producers, but also small and medium producers receive medals in the competition. In 2010 more than half of the recipients of the medals were small and medium producers.

3  Appreciation of Japanese traditional grape varieties
Traditional grape varieties in Japan are "Kosyu” whose origin is Europe (Vitis vinifera). “Muscat Bailey A” which is a hybrid developed 80 years ago to adapt well to the Japanese environment and "Zenkouji (Ryugan) of which origin is China. At present, the wine from the traditional varieties is reviewed. The white wine Kosyu is renowned for its fine aroma, elegant structure, typical Japanese taste, which is produced by Kosyu variety originated in Caucasus. It is said that this variety was transferred to Japan about 1000 years ago. It was registered in the list of grape varieties of the OIV in 2009. Intensive promotion for the export of this wine to Europe has been launched.

Regarding American varieties, such as Concord, that were used for producing sweetened wine in older times in Japan, wines of these varieties are supplied as ordinary wine, due to the comparative low cost of growing grapes with resistant and tolerant characters against diseases and humidity.

Key wine producing regions in the east part of Japan

Prefecture

Regions

Principal grape varieties

Nagano

 

 

 

- Shiojiri

- Hokushin

- Toushin

- Matsumoto

  Azumino

Merlot, Niagara, Concord

Chardonnay, Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot

Chardonnay, Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Zenkouji

Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Niagara, Concord,

Kerner

 

Yamanashi

 

 

- Katsunuma

Enzan

- Kofu, Kai

- Hokuto

Kosyu, Cabernet sauvignon, Muscat Bailey A, Petit verdot

 

Kosyu, Merlot, Chardonnay,  Muscat Bailey A

Kosyu, Chardonnay, Cabernet sauvignon

Niigata

- Iwanohara

Muscat Bailey A

Yamagata

 

- Kaminoyama,

  Zao

Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Black queen, Pinot noir, Muscat Bailey A

Hokkaido

- Otaru,  Yoichi


- Tokatchi

Muller thurgau, Kerner, Zweigeltrebe, Baccus, Delaware

 

Kiyomi, Yamasatch, Kiyomai, Zweigeltrebe

 SourceHiroshi YAMAMOTOVin de Nagano」、「Vin de Yamanashi」、「Vin de Hokkaidou,Wain-Okoku

           Hiroshi YAMAMOTOVin au Japon」、Hayakawa- Shobo

4  Combination of origin and grape variety on the label of wine in JapanAs above, the notion that the originality of wine must be attributed to the environment of grape growing regions could be recognized in Japan. This concept is similar to the European AOP and IGP, while this is based on the tradition of Japan that the character of agricultural products was, in principle, distinguished by the producing region. On the other hand, Japan has adopted the notion that grape variety is important to distinguish the taste of wine. So the name of the origin and the grape name are mentioned along with, on the label of the majority of quality wine in Japan.

5  Problems concerning wine in Japan
In the globalization of wine trade, the share of imported wine and wine produced of imported materials accounts to 90 % in the Japanese market. In particular, the imported juice compete severely with Japanese grapes. Farmers, who povide around 60% of Japanese grapes (the other 40% is harvested by wineries), are suffering setbacks in production of grapes. Therfore,wineries tend to have their own land to grow grapes by themselves or by contract with farmers. In these circunstances, both large and small wineries have made efforts to make high quality Japanese wine so that the Japanese wine survive. While, recently the remakable improvement of quality of Japanese wine has been widely recognized, further efforts are needed.

However, the Japanese legislation does not seem to adress well to developing wine industy in Japan. The wine is actually regulated by the alcoholic beverage tax law of which purpose is mainly to ensure the collection of liquor tax. The major problem is one concerning the GI to protect high quality wine. While the ministerial ordinance (ministry of finance) intorduced a very simple clause refering to the obligation of the protection of GIs, in view of implementing the obligations of the TRIPS agreement of 1994 in Japanese market, any procedure to designate Japanese GIs has not been laid down. Therefore, to date, no wine is registered as a GI in Japan. As a result, quality wines in the legal sense do not exist in Japan, and all Japnese wines are regarded merely as ordinary wine in the external market.

However, some local governments have intorduced appellation of origin system in the situation that the competition among regions has been accelerated and the national system of  geographical indication does not exist. In 2003, Nagano prefecture adopted an appellation of origin system. It has contributed to ameliorating the quality of wine and to the reputation of Nagano wine. In 2010, the Kosyu city (Yamanashi) introduced a system of certification of appellation of origin, being stimulated by the success of Nagano prefecture. These systems introduce regulations on the use of grapes harvested in determined territories, varieties of grapes permitted, the minimum rates of sugar contents, prohibited wine-making practices and sensory test.  While, these systems can contribute to the reputation and wine quality, they have no legal title as an intellectual property. So, the names cannot be protected in Japan, neither in foreign countries.

Second problem is one related to labeling. The specific legal regulations on labeling of wine are not yet established. However, in 1987, a voluntary agreement of the producers of wine on the labeling has been agreed (amendment 2006). Although this agreement covers almost all the rules necessary for the wine, it is the voluntary nature without sanctions, and does not cover all producers concerned in Japan.

                    Wine grape supply by farmers                                                                  ton

 

2001

02

03

04

05

 06

07  

Hokkaido

2,390

2,326

2,200

2,252

2,403

2,282

2,373 

Yamanashi

4,040

4,190

3,897

3,481

2,788

3,826

3,154

Nagano

3,922

2,512

3,555

2,690

4,204

4,350

4,481

Japan total

20,184

16,509

16,779

15,360

15,002

15,838

14,865

    Source: Ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries

6  Conclusion
As we analyzed above, the consumption of wine has been well integrated in Japanese people’s dietary life. Three categories of wine; wine fermented by Japanese grapes, wine produced by imported juice, have met the growing demand of wine. Since 40 years producers made efforts to adapt vitis vinifera to the unfavorable Japanese conditions. Making trials and experimentations in many regions, they realized that some vitis vinifera variety, including Japanese traditional grapes whose origin is Europe, could provide good grapes and good wine in Japan. During the development of production, the notion that the quality and character of wine are closely linked in the environment of geographical regions has been recognized by both producers and consumers.

In the coming years, Japan will continue to rely on substantially imported wine and materials to meet the increasing demand. Regarding Japanese wine, the production of quality wine should be more intensified under the condition of higher cost and limited capacity of production of grapes. This development should be supported by the introduction of an appropriate legal framework including GI system and labeling regulations, by adopting wine law in Japan.

BIBLIOGRAPHIE

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