Japanese wine drinkers seeing red
January 29, 1997
Web posted at: 8:30 p.m. EST
From Correspondent May Lee
TOKYO (CNN) -- Japan is seeing red -- and drinking it, too.
Red wine is pouring into the hearts, minds and mouths of the
Japanese, who traditionally have sipped lighter white wines,
sake and whiskey.
Hiroshi Ishida is well aware of red wine's growing
popularity. At just 27, he is Japan's top sommelier, and he
uses his expertise at the world famous Tour d'Argent
restaurant, where a bottle of vintage red can cost $3,300.
"The change in taste here can be compared to what happened in
the U.S.," Ishida said. "First choose the light white, then
dry white and then move to something stronger and more
sophisticated. In Japan, this coincided with news that red
wine can be good for your health. A recent survey showed
that one in five people started drinking reds for health
Economics also played a part in boosting red wine's
A few years ago, a cheap red wine costing less than $5 a
bottle hit the market here. Not only was the price appealing,
but so was the taste. Lighter than most reds, it hooked
consumers. And just like wine, the Japanese palate began to
Now they just can't get enough. Last year, wine consumption
topped 38 million gallons. New books and magazines on wine
are hitting the shelves, and trendy wine bars are popping up
"There are cheap wines available now, so students like me can
afford them," said one new wine lover. Added another, "Wine
is something cultural, so I'm trying to learn more about wine
to enjoy it."
A pioneer in the wine bar business is Katsuaki Kakizaki.
Three years ago he opened Bordeaux Cellar, a cozy restaurant
with a colossal collection of reasonably priced wines.
"When I first opened this wine bar, I wanted to make it a
milestone for the wine drinking culture," Kakizaki said. "I
thought if more wine is consumed, the price will go down and
it will help bring in more imports. If people learn to drink
wine, they will learn how to buy it, which will remove the
fear that people have about wine."
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