Wines produced in Chile, Australia and other New World regions are gaining popularity among consumers in Japan due to their reasonable prices and eye-catching animal logos.
Honami Shiro, a 26-year-old company official in Tokyo who drinks wine on special occasions, says she likes New World wines because they taste great and are not that expensive.
“Since I’m not particularly knowledgeable about wine, I usually pick a bottle with a cute label,” she says.
Shiro recently picked up Yellow Tail, an Australian wine that features a wallaby on its label, for a gathering with her friends.
Sapporo Breweries Ltd., which has imported Yellow Tail wines since 2004, says it saw a 50 percent rise in shipments in fiscal 2015.
In a bid to attract more customers, Sapporo Breweries has created special labels targeted at consumers here in collaboration with an Australian designer and plans to use them for its three mainstay products from autumn.
“We hope that the new labels will attract those who are not wine drinkers,” says Yusuke Tamura, an official of Sapporo Breweries’ wine business strategic division.
In 2015, Chile toppled France as top wine exporter to Japan, according to the Finance Ministry. Imports of Chilean wine jumped 18.1 percent from the previous year to 51.59 million liters, while those of French wine fell 2.8 percent to 51.51 million liters.
Mercian Corp. has been selling two Chilean wines bearing an image of a pudu, the world’s smallest deer, since July 2015.
“Recent customers, particularly women, choose wine by just looking at the labels,” says Kana Takigawa, an official of Mercian’s marketing division.
She adds that she believes they enjoy chatting about the images with friends instead of pursuing specialized knowledge of wine.
Major supermarket operator Aeon Co. has also imported a Chilean wine called Condor from a local wine maker since 2012 and sells it under as a top value brand for ¥580.
Aeon added another Chilean wine with a label bearing a deer last year.
“For consumers, it’s apparently easy to remember bottles with animal images,” says Shuichi Kato of Aeon’s liquor products planning department. “We assume that once they like it, they will come back to buy more.”