Price of Beaujolais drives demand for “Japan Nouveau”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Bottles of Yamanashi Nouveau, released on Nov. 3, are seen at Aeon Style Himonya in Meguro Ward, Tokyo.

Ahead of this year’s Nov. 17 release date for Beaujolais Nouveau, nouveau wines made in Japan have received more than usual attention. This has been due in large part to the soaring price of Beaujolais caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Improvements in domestic winemaking techniques have also contributed to the popularity of “Japan Nouveau.”

The price hike for Beaujolais Nouveau this year has been particularly stiff, with wine distributor Mercian Corp. having suggested a retail price of ¥4,310 for the 750-milliliter bottles that it imports, double last year’s ¥2,120.

“Beaujolais is transported by air, but this year there is a detour because you can’t fly over Russia,” a Mercian spokesperson said. “Additionally, historic depreciation of the yen has pushed up import prices.”

Prices of Beaujolais sold by Suntory Holding Ltd. are also up by around 50% from last year.

This has got both companies pushing Japanese nouveau wines.

On Nov. 2, Mercian released Koshu & Chardonnay 2022 at a suggested retail price of ¥2,900. The company expanded distribution for the nouveau to the whole country this year and increased production by about 200% to 16,000 bottles.

On Nov. 3, Suntory also released two Japanese nouveau wines: Koshu 2022 and Muscat Bailey A Rose 2022, both with a suggested retail price of ¥2,002. The company increased shipment volume to 9,000 cases, double last year’s volume.

Wineries and retailers across the country have also set out to publicize Japan Nouveau.

The Yamanashi Prefecture Wine Manufacturers’ Association calls its nouveau wines made in the Prefecture “Yamanashi Nouveau.”

“Production of new wine is limited, but many wineries have actually increased production from their original plans due to strong demand from wholesalers,” Shigeki Kida, the association’s vice president, said.

Aeon Retail Co. plans to sell 18,000 bottles of Yamanashi Nouveau, or 10% more than last year. At Aeon Style Himonya in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward, 21 varieties of Yamanashi Nouveau line the shelves, including a popular orange nouveau, prepared by using the production methods for red wine on white grapes. Life Corp. has also increased the number of Japanese nouveau wines it offers from only two last year to 10 this year.

Ginza Nagano, a shop showcasing Nagano Prefecture products, has chosen Friday for the release of Nagano Nouveau.

“We want to increase the number of Nagano wine fans with these nouveau,” said a shop clerk who is also a sommelier.

Wine journalist Motoko Ishii, who is an adviser to the Japan Wineries Association, said: “Japanese wineries have greatly improved their winemaking techniques, and are now highly regarded overseas. Nouveau wines express the direction of these wineries. I want many people to enjoy the taste of freshly made wine.”