Tuesday, May 3, 2011

No. 3: Growing demand for domestic premium wines (May 3, 2011)

Land left uncultivated is increasing in Japan with the progress of low birthrate and longevity, but the world is as kind as it is cruel. An increasing number of ex-salaried workers started to venture to produce premium wines. An elite businessman became independent and cultivated the abandoned farmland, and he is now growing about 7,000 vines for premium wines in this 3.2-hectare land. The most expensive wine from his winery is 5,000 yen, but it was sold out in a half year after it was launched this past spring. Another elite businessman started to produce a total of 20,000 bottles of wine and sparkling liquor in a rural area. He also runs a restaurant and an outlet of wines inside the winery, and lets visitors see the fermentation equipment and storage tanks. More than 30,000 people visit his winery and see the production process annually. Wines between 3,000-5,000 yen are popular among them.

Wines are growing popular among people as moderately priced wines become easily available. It is no longer unusual that housewives buy import wines below 500 yen at supermarkets together with foodstuffs. It can be presumed that they usually buy moderately priced domestic wines, and look for premium import wines for special occasions. However, an industry source says that sales of import wines increased 12.5% in bottle in 2010 over the previous year, but indicates that an increasing number of customers prefer import wines priced around 2,000 yen, showing a clear decrease in average customer spend. While sales of less expensive import wines are growing, Japanese domestic wine makers are shifting their focus on premium wines.

Driven by medium-sized wine makers, leading wine makers have been launching high-value added wines lately. Sapporo renovated its winery to start producing domestic premium wines around 3,000 yen coming September. Suntory launched a premium wine made only from domestic grapes was sold on its website for 18,000 yen last December, and it was immediately sold out. It is increasingly visible that preference for premium wines is growing stronger in Japan.

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