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KOFU, Yamanashi Pref. (Kyodo) Dry white wine made from Koshu grapes, which have been cultivated since the Heian Period (794-185), is gaining popularity on the back of high overseas ratings and starting to show signs of a boom.

Koshu wine used to be exclusively sweet and drunk as a dessert wine, but now wine lovers are finding it increasingly suitable as a dry white wine because it matches well with Japanese dishes, according to industry analysts.

“Wineries have challenged various production methods, enabling them to repeatedly make high-level wine,” said Shinya Tasaki, who was named the world’s best sommelier in 1995. “High-priced wine is selling fast, creating a good cycle of spending more and producing better wines.”

Shipments of dry Koshu wine from Katsunuma Winery Co. and Chuo Budo Co., both in the town of Katsunuma, Yamanashi Prefecture, have risen more than 10 percent annually over the last three years.

“We have completely sold out of some high-quality wine two weeks after marketing started,” said an official at major winemaker Mercian Corp.

Domestic wines made from grapes of European origin grown in Japan are not new on the international wine scene, but after 1990 some wineries began emphasizing the use of Koshu grapes. “We wanted to fight with true Japanese wine,” Katsunuma President Yuji Aruga said.

The company stopped mass producing its wine and started studying how to make the best use of Koshu by extracting as many of its characteristics as possible.

It tried to make wine with depth by limiting the size of its harvest and letting the grapes ferment longer with their skins.

Thanks to these efforts, Koshu wine has been attracting the attention of wine experts overseas, and Mercian and Katsunuma have won top awards several times at international contests.

Each winery is now trying to capitalize on the success.

Mercian will shortly market a wine featuring Koshu grapes’ citruslike scent.

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