Wine: a drink that seduces Japan. Since the end of the 1990s, wine has slowly worked its way into Japanese distribution circuits. You can find it everywhere, from convenience stores, supermarkets and department stores to liquor shops, online retailers, restaurants and hotels. Just 20 years ago, the gap between the volume of sake consumed and that of wine was 9. Today, it has shrunk to 1.5. The market has thus greatly stabilised and wine has gradually become rooted in Japanese consumer habits.
Some insight into this phenomenon with Alexandra Berthelot, a specialist in Wine communication at Sopexa in Tokyo.
How do Japanese consumers see wine?
Today, 29% of the Japanese population say they drink wine regularly (at least once a month). To give you a key figure, the Japanese consume 3.6 litres of wine per person per year. Over 8 litres a year for a Tokyoite.
Can we say there is a typical Japanese wine consumer?
Today, wine consumption is driven by senior citizens. The challenge here is to draw in young consumers, who drink alcohol more moderately, yet are more sensitive to new products. Many Japanese wine drinkers have a highly developed oenological culture. Wine tasting courses have become very popular, namely among women.
Are there any grape varieties that are more popular than others?
For red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the varieties of choice. As are Chardonnay and Sauvignon for whites. Beyond this, the Japanese tend to prefer fruity white wines that are easy to drink, tangy and fresh (with notes of citrus, apple, pear and peach, for example) and reds that are quite rich and just as fruity (with hints of raspberry, blackcurrant, blackberry, cranberry or cherry).
What are the big trends in wine consumption in Japan?
Wines with better value for money: More and more wine enthusiasts are seeking quality wines at an affordable price. In 2017, 73% of the volume of imported wine was priced between ¥500 and ¥1,500 (from €3.90 to €11.70). This is at the lower end of the Japanese market.
Japanese consumers are increasingly drinking at home: According to a study by Asahi Holdings in 2017, over 70% of Japanese alcohol consumers drink at home at least twice a week.
Organic and cool-climate wines and the green approach: Like in Europe, consumer interest in organic and natural wines is strong. The words “additive-free” are a big hit with the Japanese. Likewise, Japanese professionals have taken an interest in global warming and, in particular, its impact on wine production.
Sparkling wines: Bubbly has really become popular amongst Japanese consumers! The market has been growing since 2009 (with a 77% jump in imports between 2009 and 2017). Champagne, in particular, is booming. The CIVC reports an increase in Champagne shipments to Japan of 17.6% in volume and 21.3% in value in 2017. We can say that sparkling wines pair very well with Japanese cuisine.
What is the “Wine Blend Palette”?
Above all, it is a concept that best reflects Japanese consumer trends, namely thanks to hyper-personalisation. “Wine Blend Palette” is a service launched by the Kikkoman group enabling customers to purchase wines that they themselves have created by making their own personal blend. This new service has been available since 9 November. At many vineyards around the world, wine is made using blends of batches of various grape varieties, from different production areas or vintages. Everyone can create original wines by deciding on their own unique blend, a process and know-how that were until today exclusive to oenologists. At the “Wine Blend Palette” website, Internet users can choose to combine up to 5 batches among 7 batches of red wines. The final blend will be shipped to their home for a price that ranges between ¥2,000 and ¥3,000 for a 72 cl bottle.