The Japanese have a particular love of wine. I'm guessing it sprung up along with their penchant for buying impressionist and cubist paintings in the early 1980's during their economic bubble. But what then was a flagrant use of enormous wealth has settled into a more moderate appreciation for wine as a luxury item. Most of the Japanese businessmen that I worked with in 2001 and 2002 were huge aficionados, and I would occasionally get requests on my trips back to California to bring back something special. Currently Japan is one of the top consumers of higher end Bordeaux wines.
It's no wonder, then, that someone finally started trying to make wine in Japan. And we're not talking about rice wine here, but honest to goodness Cabernet, Merlot, and of course, some strange, secret grape hybrid developed in Japan called Shokoshi.
Here's an article from the Japan times describing the trials and tribulations of one of these first efforts to make indigenous wine in a place that does not have a climate suited to grape growing. The initial efforts are looking mixed -- "The Cabernet and Merlot had the depth of rose-colored dishwater and might charitably be described as "light and tart," but the other wines were quite interesting."
I wish them the best of luck.
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