Contemporary Consumer Trends, Global Networks and Research Institutes

Besides the roles government and industry have played in developing Japan’s winemaking industry, we must also consider the changing trends in the domestic consumer market, the globalization of winemaking knowledge and research developments.

Table by author based on data from Kirin Holdings

Fig. 5 Table by author based on data from Kirin Holdings64

First is the increase in the number of Japan’s domestic wine drinkers due to the globalization of wine consumption. Wine is now becoming one of the major alcoholic beverages consumed by Japanese people. Others include sake, shochu, beer, fruit wine, whisky, brandy, liquor and happoshu (low-malt beer). According to the latest statistics, the consumption of grape wine enjoyed 4 per cent of the total alcohol market in 2013.64 [1] [2] Although a seemingly small percentage, it is still significant considering the very diverse and competitive market (see Fig. 5).

Compared with beer’s share of 31 per cent and liquor’s share of 24.5 per cent in 2013, the market share of wine remained relatively small. But, from 2003 to 2013, wine consumption jumped by 140.3 per cent, the largest increase among all the genres. Moreover, wine consumption per capita per year in Japan was 3.5 bottles (750 ml per bottle) in 2013, an increase from 2.5 bottles in 2003. In contrast, the consumption of beer as well as sake and shochu actually decreased from 2003 to 20 1 3.[3] In particular, beer dropped 10 per cent. Furthermore, according to the result of a national survey conducted by NHK in 2007, wine was in the fifth place in a ranking of the 18 alcoholic beverages favoured by the Japanese.[4]

The changing drinking habits of Japanese consumers are an incentive for improving the overall quality of Japanese wine. Imported wines continue to dominate the market. They accounted for almost 70 per cent of consumed wines in 2013. Only about 30 per cent of wines consumed are domestically made wines (including wines made with grapes grown in Japan and wines made with imported bulk wines and condensed juice). This situation has remained more or less the same since 2000. The government and the wine industry see the expanding domestic wine market as a good opportunity for promoting domestic wine. This is part of a larger national project to encourage the consumption of Japanese food and drink products.[5]

Second are the increased connections of individual winemakers to the transnational wine world. The young generation of winemakers in private wineries has more opportunities to learn new winemaking knowledge through their global networks. In culinary globalization, individual culinary producers are always important actors.[6] The sharing of knowledge and technology through the global movement of winemakers helps improve local wine production. These young Japanese have studied in the established winemaking countries. Most of these winemakers combine ‘Old World’ (e.g. France, Italy, and Spain) and ‘New World’ (e.g. Australia and North America) methods. Some of them are ‘flying winemakers’, meaning they work at their own winery for one season and at overseas wineries the next. Their time spent at overseas wineries helps them upgrade the wines they make in their home countries so that they may be recognized internationally.[7]

Third is the scientific research aiming to improve the quality of grapes and wine conducted by domestic research institutions. The major institutes are The Institutes of Enology and Viticulture at Yamanashi University and the National Research Institute of Brewing (NRIB). The former is the earliest wine research institution in Japan. It was founded in

1947 and was originally part of the Engineering Department of Yamanashi University. In 2000, the institute was reorganized and it has now three research laboratories focusing on microbiological, biochemical, bio-functional science and fruit genetic engineering research relating to grapes and wines, respectively. The National Research Institute of Brewing is a national organization managed by the Ministry of Finance which develops new technology for the production of every genre of alcohol. As discussed above, in 2010, it provided important scientific evidence for the successful registration of the Koshu grape as an internationally recognized wine grape by helping to prove that the grape was a hybrid variety of Vitis vinifera and East Asian wild grape.

  • [1] Ibid.
  • [2] Kirin Holdings, ‘Wain sanko shiryo’.
  • [3] See also Stegewern’s article in this volume.
  • [4] NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, Nihonjin no suki na mono, 31.
  • [5] 6sAssmann, ‘Food Action Nippon’, 10.
  • [6] See, e.g., Assmann, ‘Food Action Nippon’; Wank and Farrer, ‘Chinese immigrants’; Farrer,‘Shanghai’s Western Restaurants’; Sawaguchi, ‘Japanese cooks in Italy’; Ceccarini, Pizza and PizzaChefs.
  • [7] Kawauchi, ‘Josei jozoka no gunshin’.
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