Over the past several decades, Japan has experienced multiple booms in wine consumption. The first major boom occurred in the late 1980s with the introduction of Beaujolais Nouveau. Another boom occurred from around 1997 to 1998 after a Japanese sommelier won the International Sommelier Competition and received significant media attention. Wine, particularly inexpensive wine from Argentina and Chile, flooded the market exposing the Japanese consumers to wines beyond France. Unfortunately, wine consumption fell soon after.
What I am calling Japan’s third modern wine boom started from around 2010 after economies started to stabilize after the 2008 Great Financial Crisis. According to a 2018 GAIN Report from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Services, the volume of Japan’s imports of wine have increased annually since 2008 and the value since 2010.
What is interesting about this third boom is that Japanese wine is a major part of the trend. A defining moment was when Grace Winery from Yamanashi prefecture won a gold medal at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards for its 2012 Gris de Koshu based on a Japanese white grape varietal. Since then, Japanese wines have won numerous international awards and their reputation among critics and industry professionals internationally has grown at an immense rate (see this post). As proof, in fiscal 2016, Japanese wine exports rose by 26%. Grape production has also increased with a study by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reporting that Japan produced 17,280 tons of wine grapes in 2015, the highest since 2003 when such data first began to be collected.
This third wine boom seems to have the legs to stay booming. Not only has it been continuing for nearly a decade, it is supported by and interest in the domestic industry and its product. There are parallels to when the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars from California won at the Judgement of Paris in 1976. That event became a trigger for the development of the California, as well as the Washington and Oregon, wine industry into what it is today. This third wine boom may be the one that establishes Japan as a major player in the global wine industry.