Japan is now the world’s 23rd-biggest wine market, having overtaken Austria and Ukraine in the last 12 months, according to a new report from Wine Intelligence. The study, entitled "Japan Landscapes," says this has occurred despite the twin shocks of last year’s Japanese earthquake and global economic uncertainty. It's clear that a market which has been relatively stagnant over the past decade has now picked up.
"It has been an exciting time for Japan in the past three years, as volumes have grown by nearly 17 percent, with growth shared equally between imported and domestically produced wine," says the report.
Researchers also found that younger drinkers are becoming more involved with the wine market, widening the gulf between them and the older generations of Japanese: "Wine plays a bigger role in their lives, they enjoy spending time making their choices and are more open-minded in their tastes."
According to Wine Intelligence, "The younger generation have not only maintained [their] enthusiasm for new discoveries in the wine aisles but have built on it and matured in just 12 months. The wine industry as a whole is beginning to show signs of growth in new areas."
A 2011 report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said American producers held a 7.8 percent share of the Japanese market, with most wines being sold in the $8–$12 range. Exporters were working to ship more bottles in the $12–$18 price category, "in an effort to extract more value per liter."
The USDA report quoted World Health Organization data showing that Japan is in the top quarter of all countries in terms of per-capita alcohol consumption, at 7.4 liters annually. But it said wine consumption was low because there were many other options to choose from, such as sake, shochu and beer.
Even so, Wine Intelligence believes "the continued increase in sales and development of young consumers in a mature wine market can give those already involved in the Japanese wine industry hope for the future."