The battle for supremacy in the Japanese wine market.

Very interesting article (at least for me, considering that I work in the industry in Japan) on how New World wines are gaining more and more share in this market.

The April 11th issue of Shuhan News (number 1875) reports datas from the Statistics Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, giving a very detailed picture of the wine maket in the first two months of 2015.

Concerning still wines in container smaller than 2L, in February France has made a comeback, gaining an upper hand with 3.367.872L of wine imported, with Chile second at 3.287.340L. Italy, alas is just third (2.382.493L), followed by Spain (1.986.506L), USA(547.142L), Australia (429.242L), Germany and other minor players. However Chile is still on the top if we consider the total of the first two months, with 7.651.588L against France 6.913.416L.

In the “heavyweight category” (wine stored in containers holding between 2 and 150L), Chile, Spain and USA are having a thrilling head to head: the first reached the top in February (286.089L against 279.864L and 253.104L), but the second and third are still ahead if we include January results, with 584.422L for Spain and 539.953L for the US (Chile is not that far though, at 532.593L). Italy and France follow, but their share it’s just a fraction.

Up to this point Chile seems to be just one of the main players, but it’s in the bulk segment (wine inside containers bigger than 150L) that its supremacy becomes evident, with a total of 3.517.961L imported since January 1st, well ahead USA 782.289L. South Africa shows a mildly surprising performance here, being third at 399.015.

Fortified wines category is of course limited to a few countries: Spain or Portugal? I would have said Spain, but the answer is Portugal and for a good margin (32.931L in February, 53.210L in the first two months, against 15.731L and 26.508L). However the declining trend of portuguese wines should not be taken lightly, as the volume is down to 70.8 when compared to last year performance in the same period (Spain is down too, but stopped at 96.3%). There is not much behind, apart from France, Italy and a bit of Greece.

Finally let’s turn to sparkling wines: here, as you can imagine, France sits on the top of the ladder (February: 833.040L, Jan-Feb: 1.720.093L), increasing its share by 6.4% relative to the first two months of 2015. Very good performance also for our runner-up, Spain, quite below France, but improving, while second runner-up Italy’s market shrank by 25% compared to January and February 2014. Fourth place for Chile, followed by Australia, Argentina, Germany, South Africa and, quite surprisingly, Mexico.

I would like to add just a personal note: Chile wine is very popular in Japan, and its rise seems unstoppable. At present it is still quite novel, consistent and affordable, all very important qualities in a country facing inflation like Japan. One day however Chile wine industry will need to rethink its role in this market: for now it is just the good value wine which you’ll choose if you are tight on budget, reliable, but not as fashionable as french, italian or even american wines (spanish wine image is a bit more mixed). When this country market will reach maturity towards Chile wine, producers and exporters will have to persuade consumers that they are not just the honest cheap bulk wine of old, but that they can offer also premium quality and a smart image, to appeal new high-income drinkers. Up to that day beware of Chile!

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