Wines made entirely from grapes grown in Japan are becoming popular for the way they match some types of Japanese cuisine.
Says Farm Co., a winery in Himi, Toyama Prefecture, was established by a local fish wholesaler who built a vineyard on a hill commanding a view of Toyama Bay and the Tateyama mountain range.
Although the city is known for its seafood, the winery began building the vineyard in 2007 in a bid to create a new indigenous product and job opportunities.
Local residents were initially skeptical at the company’s prospects because the area gets a lot of rain. But Says Farm worked to improve the soil quality of its vineyard by lacing it with oyster shells and taking other steps. Its efforts bore fruit in 2012, when the winery began full-scale wine sales.
The company produces 17,000 bottles per year. In particular, the chardonnay and other white wines the company produces are in strong demand from sushi and other seafood restaurants across the nation.
“We hope more people will come to know us as a new brand and tourist site in Himi,” said Kenji Iida, an executive at T-Marks, which manages the winery.
Chuo Budoshu Co., a pioneer in the domestic wine industry, uses grapes grown at an elevation of 700 meters in the city of Koshu, Yamanashi Prefecture, the heart of Japanese wine country.
Koshu gets sunlight all year round, but its name also happens to be a variety of grape that is growing popular for the light, fruity white wine it produces. Like other wineries in Japan, Chuo Budoshu is promoting the use of “koshu” for “a next-generation wine” that suits Japanese cuisine, said Ayana Misawa, leader of the winery’s production section. The variety accounts for about 50 percent of its output.
Koshu has become an internationally recognized wine. Chuo Budoshu started exporting koshu to Britain in 2010 and now exports to nine European and Asian nations.
“Wines produced in Japan are hardly well-known internationally yet but have won strong trust in their quality,” Misawa claimed. “We want to develop our koshu wine into a brand that represents Japan.”
According to Suntory Wine International Ltd., consumption of locally produced wine in Japan has climbed in recent years, reflecting an improvement in taste resulting from advances in wine-making techniques and success at international contests.
Wine consumption came to 9.1 million liters in 2013, up 35 percent from five years ago.
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