Japanese wine drinkers are becoming more adventurous: report

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

One to watch: the Japanese wine market. Pic: iStock
One to watch: the Japanese wine market. Pic: iStock

Related tags Wine Chardonnay

Wine drinkers in Japan are becoming more adventurous and showing an increased interested in wine, according to Wine Intelligence. And, in fact, the country is rated as one of the most attractive wine markets in the world. 

The Japanese market is often overlooked in favor of China, but per capita consumption in Japan is significantly higher, says the consultancy. Yet it is still below that of more established European markets.

While wine is attracting a broader palate of tastes, preferences are also shifting towards lighter wines that are easier to pair with food, especially white wine.

Drinkers explore new wine on a regular basis

Japan ranks as the world’s 16th largest wine market, with 40m 9L cases sold in 2014, and a total of 36.1m regular wine drinkers.

In its Japan Landscapes 2016 report, Wine Intelligence ranks the country as the third most attractive wine market in the world.

This is based on a number of economic measures, such as: adult population size, GDP per capita and globalization measure (for example, the number of Starbucks and McDonald’s per capita). It is also based on wine market measures (such as per capita consumption, wine drinking population and potential growth, and market accessibility).

The most attractive wine markets

The five most attractive wine markets are the US, Germany, Japan, UK & Switzerland, says Wine Intelligence.

“These markets have different drivers pushing them to the top of the ranking. For example, the US ranks very high on drinking population potential, gross national income & total market value. Germany ranks positively in economic measures such as market accessibility.

“Japan has seen a long term trend towards growth in the wine market with 8.36% CAGR from 2010-14.”

Wine drinkers in the growing Japanese market are showing more adventurous tastes and demonstrating an increased interest in wine.

The number of Japanese regular wine drinkers who stated they enjoy trying new and different styles of wine, on a regular basis, increased from 21% to 27% since 2014, according to a survey carried out as part of the report.

In addition, 51% of regular drinkers (defined as those who drink at least once a month) say they have a strong interest in wine, up from 40%.

Domestic wine was the most popular in terms of country of origin, with 52% having consumed Japanese wine in the past six months. 44% said they had consumed wine from Chile (up from 39% in 2014) with France in third place.

White wine and Japanese cuisine

The wine market in Japan is growing from a low base, explains Wine Intelligence.

“Consumption per capita is still significantly less than that of more established European markets, for example, however where in those countries interest in wine is relatively stable or even declining, there is an increase in interest in wine amongst Japanese consumers, which is where the potential lies.”

White wines show particular promise, given their ability to pair with food.

“Heavier reds are likely to have a harder time than before, with a shift in preference towards wines that are lighter and easier to pair with food - especially whites - the food obviously primarily being Japanese cuisine.

“Rosés are also likely to face more challenges as they are still to ‘take off’ in Japan – only 1 in 4 regular wine drinkers drink them.”

Those in the younger generation are particularly adventurous. However, this could signify a challenge for more traditional wines.  

“For example, French wines are seen increasingly as pricey due to their prestige, and a little straight-laced, with consumers beginning to turn to an exciting, new repertoire that’s better value for money.

“Value is not a factor only for traditional French wines though, as we’ve seen that Californian wines are also struggling – they are regarded as overpriced by Japanese consumers, especially in comparison to Chilean wines, which are helped by a free trade agreement between Japan and Chile.”

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