Kirin has released its annual report on the state of Japanese wine market. I summarised last year’s results plus some comments on this article.

The results are updated to 2017 (the fiscal year, between April and March 2018), although some tables also report 2018 data. Let’s see what has changed.

  • Wine consumption went up in fiscal year 2017 compared to 2016 by 3%. This is the highest figure in Japanese wine market history after the record 2015, which is still the all time high.
    Consumption of both imported and national wines has gone up, the former still representing the vast majority of the market (68.7% vs 31.3%). Japanese people are now drinking 2.94 L per capita (more than China, if that means anything), while wine represents 4.35% of the total alcohol consumed in the Country.
  • So is it all good and well? Was 2016 just a physiological decrease? Can we breathe a sigh of relief? It is difficult to say.
    On page 3 a set of different statistics indicates the volume of wine shipments from producers and importers. Here the data for each year refers to the January-December period, so the figures are different, but they also include 2018. We notice here that while 2017 reports an increase here as well, the numbers for 2018 are down by 7.4% compared to the previous year, the lowest value since 2011.
    What can this mean? At the moment it is difficult to draw conclusions, but it is worthy to point out that national wine sales volumes grew anyway, with the imports suffering the big blow. Thus, the reason may lie in the record low 2017 harvest in many European Contries, more than in a shifting in consumers preference. National wine step up to fill the void, but it could do it only to a very limited extent.

Looking at the data for each Country, still wine is still dominated (in volume) by Chile, ahead of France, Italy and Spain, but the figures for all this four Countries have decreased in 2018, likely for to the aforementioned 2017 poor harvest. The only relevant Countries to have increased their presence are the USA and Portugal.
Setting 2018 aside for a moment and looking at the long term trends, the success of Chile in the last 10 years is indisputable, France fared well in the 2012-2015 period, but it is now dwindling. Italy and Spain have increased since 2008, but their growth has almost halted or slightly regressed. USA, Australia and Germany have even lost market share, while New Zealand, South Africa and Portugal have expanded a lot in relative terms, but they still do not sell that much.

Chile, France, Italy and Spain also lead the sparkling wines sector: in 2018 number one France exported in Japan nearly the double of runner-up Spain, enjoying a considerable growth in spite of the complex year. Italy is just number three: though being the first export market for Franciacorta, Japan has still to jump in the Prosecco craze wagon and it may never will, as I don’t see that much promotion or push for this wine here.
For the remaining Countries it is interesting to notice the relevant decrease for Germany and the US, the former now exporting less than half and the latter less than than 1/5 compared to 2008.

Finally, Japanese wine. Please notice that the “National wine” category in the statistics above also include wine manufactured in Japan from imported material. Wine made from Japanese grapes, Japanese wine, is made in pretty low quantities and hardly increasing: the figures at page 10 show very close values in the last 4 years and the total still amounts to less than 1/5 of “National wine”, only 4.8% of the entire market.

The Kirin document only reports volumes, not values, where French wines are likely leading the pack. That will be the topic for another article, if I manage to get the numbers.

Open issues that we will examine in the next years:

  • Is 2018 decrease really only due to the poor harvest? How will Japan market progress?
  • What will be the effect of the Japan-EU EPA? Many importers reduced their prices, but the big scale effect will take at least a couple of years to be assessed. Sparkling wines may have an advantage.
  • Consumption tax is increasing this October from 8% to 10%. That will not be for all products, but alcohol is one of these. Will people cut their wine budget?