Japanese wine drinkers are increasingly open to trying new styles and countries as the country’s wine market ‘comes of age’, according to a new report.

International wine trade exhibition group Vinexpo launched Vinexpo Nippon in Tokyo in November 2014.

Chile
has been a major beneficiary of this maturing trend in Japan, with the country’s wines more than tripling their share of the market over the past seven years and overtaking France late in 2014, says Rabobank in its latest wine quarterly report.

The Netherlands-based bank said many wine exporters had turned their backs on Japan when the market fell away 16 years ago, focusing instead on the potential of Hong Kong and Mainland China.

‘But in more recent years, the hype surrounding the China wine market boom has coincided with a significant, yet much less publicised, renewed interest in wine across the Sea of Japan,’ said Marc Soccio, report co-author and Rabobank senior wine analyst.

‘This has opened the way for New World producers, most notably Chile, to gain a foothold in the market.’

In particular, the ratification of the Japan-Chile Economic Partnership Agreement in 2007 had prompted cuts in import tariffs, with Chile’s share of wine import volumes moving from 7.5% in 2007 to more than 25% in late 2014, overtaking France.

Australian winemakers are also seeking a greater presence in Japan after the two countries implemented an economic partnership agreement earlier this year. The deal is set to eliminate Japanese import tariffs on Australian wine withing seven to 10 years.

Soccio said new generations of consumers, including female drinkers, were bringing a new perspective to wine, driving growth of premium sparkling wines.

Other New World countries and ‘less familiar’ Old World powers, such as Spain, are expected to benefit in future.

According to provisional figures from market research group IWSR, Japan ranked eighth in the list of wine importing countries, importing a total of just over 25m cases in 2014.

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Written by Richard Woodard