Japan’s high-end Ruby Roman grapes apparently copied in S. Korea

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Carefully wrapped Ruby Roman grapes are displayed for sale in Kanazawa.

KANAZAWA — High-end Ruby Roman grapes are grown only on selected farms in Ishikawa Prefecture, but certain other grapes being sold under the same name in South Korea were found to have the same DNA, the Ishikawa prefectural government said Wednesday.

It is believed that Ruby Roman saplings must have been spirited out of Japan. The prefectural government is planning to demand that the central government tighten up measures against such illicit exports.

The prefecture spent 14 years developing the grape variety, which was first shipped in 2008. The grapes are characterized by their bright red color and sweet taste. The prefecture set criteria for shipping, such as that each grape must weigh at least 20 grams and have sugar content of 18% or higher. The grapes are grown only by farmers in the prefecture who have a license contract with the prefecture. At the fruits’ first auction this year in July, one bunch of Ruby Roman grapes fetched a record ¥1.5 million.

Last year, the prefecture got wind of grapes being sold as “Ruby Roman” in South Korea, too. In August this year, the prefecture carried out a DNA test on grapes purchased in that country at a government testing facility. The test result showed their genetic type was the same as that of Ruby Roman grapes in Japan. However, according to the prefecture, the South Korean grapes were not a beautiful red and did not cluster firmly.

In South Korea, a company has already registered the name and the variety of the grapes, making it impossible for Japan to seek to have the sales suspended. The prefecture is working on trademark registration for Ruby Roman outside Japan so that the South Korean grapes cannot be exported to other countries or territories.