Contrary to popular belief, wine consumption in Japan is relatively unaffected by the economic climate.

This, at least, is the view of Jean-Marie Chadronnier, the president of Vinexpo Asia-Pacific, the regional branch of a promoter of international wine fairs.

The third Vinexpo Asia-Pacific will be held in Tokyo in June, and Chadronnier was recently in the country to promote the event.

“Despite its rather difficult economic situation . . . (Japan) is still the biggest and the best structured market for wine and spirits in Asia,” said Chadronnier, 56.

According to Vinexpo, wine consumption in Japan stood at 1.8 liters per capita in 1994 and grew to 3 liters in 2000. Although the amount is small compared to France’s 50 liters and the U.S.’s 10 liters, Japan accounts for 80 percent of wine and spirits purchases in the Asia-Pacific region.

Despite the Asian economic crisis of 1997, wine consumption in Asia between 1994 and 2000 experienced the strongest growth in the world, up 68 percent. Taiwan saw the largest rise, at 105.9 percent, followed by Japan at 87.1 percent growth.

China saw its per capita wine consumption rise 61.8 percent during the six years.

“Considering its size, China is a fascinating market which absolutely needs to be followed closely, but is still not quite mature,” he said, estimating present consumption to be 0.5 liter per capita.

When asked about the competition between French wine and “New World” wines from California, Australia, South Africa, Chile and other countries, Chadronnier, who is also the owner and producer of Chateau Marsau: Bordeaux-Cotes de Francs, admitted that competition is everywhere but that he is not worried.

“The market of wine is that of diversity,” he said. “Dynamic competition stimulates the market and boosts consumption, as producers promote wine,” he said. “And that’s what Vinexpo is — the representation of worldwide wine production.”

Expo organizers expect 700 companies from 24 countries and 13,000 visitors during the event, to be held at Tokyo Big Sight from June 4 to June 6. It will feature exhibits, seminars, and tasting sessions.

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