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This year's Beaujolais Nouveau went on sale in Japan on Thursday with a more demure reception amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Companies have latched onto consumers' cravings for high-end items as they stay at home to avoid infections, and internet orders for the young French wine surged.

The vintage from the Beaujolais region was sent to Japan earlier than usual, given slower transportation due to the reduction in the number of flights between France and Japan, Mercian Corp., a unit of beer maker Kirin Holdings Co., said.

The volume of imports has continued a downward trend since 2013. Mercian said it lined up products with more focus on health-conscious consumers.

Department store operator Sogo & Seibu Co. said internet orders for Beaujolais Nouveau increased about 1.7 times from last year, and that the average price rose 15%.

Asahi Breweries Ltd. also sees hope in high-end products. It is aiming to sell 4,000 bottles of wine at around ¥6,000 each made from grapes from trees with an average age of 80 years.

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