Japanese wine (日本のワイン)

The section of Japanese wine describes the wine produced in Japan.

Summary

In the Japanese Islands, it is also believed that a beverage made of fermented grape juice was produced and provided to drink in the mid Jomon period. However, the winemaking began in earnest after the Meiji period when the proactive adoption of Western culture took place following civilization and enlightenment. In the dawn of Japanese wine history, the efforts and achievements of winemakers such as Zenbei KAWAKAMI from Niigata Prefecture and Denbei KAMIYA from Aichi Prefecture are worthy of mention.

At first, cultivation of American grape varieties formed the core of Japanese wine grapes, however they experienced a setback with a Phylloxera (Viteus vitifoliae, see the article of grape) epidemic. Afterwards the demand for domestic wine decreased and only a few viticulturists remained to produce wine in various places. However, during the World War II, there was also a background that the production of Japanese wine was significantly increased because crystalline potassium sodium tartrate generated from tartaric acid, a by-product in the production of wine, could form parts of a weapon (sonar). However, it was just to meet the demand for military logistics and the main purpose was not drinking wine. In the course of the agricultural innovation after the war, taking advantage of pre-war and wartime heritage (such as the fields and fermentation technique), the winemaking on a certain scale was resumed for consumer use in the regions suitable for grape-growing. However, imported juices and bulk wine were added to most of the wine produced in Japan and Japanese wine was said to be still developing and it received a low score.

Meanwhile, in terms of Japanese tastes, the acidity and astringency of wine were not accepted at all at the beginning. For a long time sugars such as honey were added to moderate the acidity and astringency of wine and amakuchi (sweet) wine was the mainstay. To consumers of the time 'wine' was recognized by types like Suntory's 'Akadama Sweet Wine' (Red Jewel Sweet Wine). This trend continued until the 1970s when real wine was rather called 'budoshu' (grape liquor) and considered as hobby, and some wine lovers imported European wine to satisfy their tastes.

After that, through international exchanges such as Tokyo Olympic Games (1964) and Osaka Expo (1970) as well as PR (public relations) activities by large manufactures, public awareness of authentic wine increased, and aside from eating fresh grapes as fruit, intake of wine grapes also spread. As a result, specialist manufacturers called wineries became serious about winemaking, and introduced cultivation method emulating European hedging styles, and began to develop specially cultivated insect resistant grape varieties from European strains. Some wineries produced superior wines using only pure domestic cultivation, and began to win a prize in overseas fairs and receive good reviews internationally. Also, due to the specific tastes of Japanese consumers, production of additive-free and pesticide-free wine also grew.

Due in part to moderation of import taxes on foreign wines, a diversification of Japanese food culture, and growing awareness of the beneficial effects of polyphenol, an understanding of real wine in recent years has come about, also a groundwork has been laid out by the promotion of high quality domestically produced wines. From 2002 onward, leading with Yamanashi Prefecture, a competition focused on 'Japanese wine using only 100% Japanese grapes' began. From wine by individual winemakers called vigneron to one by large manufacturers with efforts, it is open to compete with quality improvement of purely domestic wines.

Major wine producing regions of Japan
In Japan the main regions for wine production are Hokkaido and Yamanashi Prefecture. In the past Aichi Prefecture was also a large producer of wine, but now few wines are produced.

Hokkaido: 'Tokachi Wine' (Ikeda Town [Hokkaido]), 'Furano Wine' (Furano City), 'Otaru Wine' (Otaru City)
In Hokkaido, Ikeda Town (Hokkaido) undertook grape-growing and wine production as revitalization of the town to recover economically from a state of bankruptcy and was able to make it successful over the 20 years from the 1960s. Thereafter, many region began to foster production, the main cause of which was the influence of the nationwide 'Isson Ippin Undo' (One Village, One Specialty Movement).

Iwate Prefecture: 'Edel Wine' (Hanamaki City), 'Kuzumaki Wine' (Kuzumaki Town)
Yamagata Prefecture: 'Tendo Wine' (Tendo City), refer the external link
Niigata Prefecture: 'Iwanohara Wine' (Joetsu City), 'Agri Core Echigo Winery' (Minamiuonuma City)
In wine production in the Joetsu region, there has been a tradition of Japanese wine since the Meiji period, inheriting achievements of Zenbei KAWAKAMI who is also called 'the father of Japanese grape for wine.'

Tochigi Prefecture: 'Coco Farm & Winery' (Ashikaga City)
Ibaraki Prefecture: 'Ushiku Wine'
It is known as the birthplace of wine, cultivated by Denbei KAMIYA, but no grapes are grown now and wines using imported concentrated juices, wines and domestic grapes are produced.

Yamanashi Prefecture: 'Katsunuma Wine,' 'Koshu Wine' (Koshu City)
During the Pacific War, Yamanashi Prefecture was the center to accumulate tartaric acid. Because the soil in Kofu basin is suitable for fruit cultivation, today it is one of the largest wine-producing areas in Japan. About one fourth of the domestic wines are shipped. See the article of Koshu (grape).

Nagano Prefecture: 'St. Cousair' (Iizuna Town) 'Shinshu Wine' (Shiojiri City)
Aichi Prefecture: ('Kusuri no Budoshu' (wine as medicine) [Tsushima City])
Shiga Prefecture: 'Hitomi Wine' (Higashiomi City)
Kyoto Prefecture: 'Tanba Wine' (Kyotanba Town)
Osaka Prefecture: 'Kochi Wine' (Kashiwabara City, Habikino City)
Hyogo Prefecture: 'Kobe Wine' (Kobe City)
In Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe City took the initiative in launching independent wineries by relating them to agricultural production and tourism in urban areas as well as developing city-brand products.

Okayama Prefecture: 'Hiruzen Wine' (Maniwa City)
Shimane Prefecture: 'Shimane Wine' (Izumo City)
Hiroshima Prefecture: 'Miyoshi Wine' (Miyoshi City)
Miyazaki Prefecture: 'Aya Wine' (Aya Town), 'Tsuno Wine' (Tsuno Town)

Major 'large companies with their own winery'
Mercian
Suntory
Sapporo Breweries
Asahi Breweries

These large manufacturers import and sell wines produced by overseas manufacturers, and produce and sell wines using imported concentrated juices and imported bulk wine or wines produced in their own winery. Also, in the past, there was a scandal in which diethylene glycol was added to imported noble rot (wine made with grapes affected by noble rot). However, large manufacturers have the advantage of being able to 'provide products that maintain a certain level of quality at low cost and in large quantity in the market' and they have definitely become one of the pillars of wine consumption market in Japan.

It is notable here that, aside from these large producers, there are a number of winemakers in Japan, from small to medium sized winemakers, family run winemakers to winemakers who purchase raw materials (grapes) from farmers or overseas and do only wine production and each winemaker follows its own management and production policies and produces many brands though they are small-sized. It is not that which winery is superior, or which winery is doing right. Each winery has its own specialty and is willing to become a pillar or create a path to boost Japanese wine industry.

Budoshu' (grape liquor) as a medicine
Nihon yakkyokuho (Japanese Pharmacopoeia) lists 'budoshu' as alcoholic analeptic. To work up an appetite, it is consumed as is (red wine mixed with lemonade) as a medicine, or it is mixed with other preparations to make it easier to drink, so it is also used in diet for hypertension and so on.

Godo Shusei Co., Ltd. (present Oenon Holdings, Inc.) used to produce wine as 'Kyokuho Hachi Budoshu,' but production was discontinued in 1982 due to drug price revision and so on and there has been a long blank period. However, now two pharmaceutical companies produce and sell budoshu.
The production of budoshu was resumed by Nakakita Co., Ltd. in Aichi Prefecture in its Tsushima factory in 1992
Now it is available for public as 'Kusuri no Budoshu' (name of medical product is 'Japanese Pharmacopoeia wine') at pharmacies or drugstores. However, as with general wine, underage drinking should be avoided and it is prohibited to drive a vehicle after drinking. Shiseido Seiyaku (Shiseido Pharmaceutical) in Tokyo also produces budoshu, but the details are unknown.

Gensanchi Hyoji (Mark of Origin)
As system of appellation of origin, France's Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) and the United States' American Viticultural Areas (A.V.A. for short) are established as legal systems.

In Japan there was no nationwide legal system, regardless of origin of raw material or types of grape, anything that was fermented domestically could be labeled as 'Japanese wine.'
Because of this, some products labeled as Japanese wine that were produced using imported grape juice were distributed. Now, 'standards of representation of domestic wines' of Wine hyoji mondai kento kyogikai (Council for studying issue of wine's appellation) is revised and few wines which are produced by domestically fermenting imported grape juice are labeled as Japanese (domestic) wine. Most of the low-priced wines sold by Japanese manufacturers are still produced by fermenting imported concentrated juices in Japan (in some cases, some of these wines are mixed with bulk imported wines).

However, some local governments have begun their own control system of appellation of origin, such as Nagano Appellation Control of Nagano Prefecture and Wine Domain of Origin Certification Regulation of Koshu City, Yamanashi Prefecture.