Andy and I were in Tokyo for a few days in mid October with our new distributor there – Apurevu Trading. It’s a great city and the more time I spend there, the more I like it. We decided long ago that it was going to be an important market for Misha’s Vineyard – back at a time when Japan was in fact the biggest and most important market in Asia for New Zealand wine (albeit still small volumes in the scheme of things), however that situation has changed quite dramatically.
Surprisingly, even though Japan has a population of 128 million, New Zealand exports twice the amount of wine to Singapore (with its tiny 5 million population), than it does to Japan! Just three years ago New Zealand exported similar volumes of wine to both Singapore and Japan although in value terms the Japanese exports were worth 30% more.
Although exports of New Zealand wine to Japan decreased a little in the last year, the two years prior saw double digit growth. But Japan is a market you need to make a long-term commitment to, and that’s what we decided, so we’re there for the long haul!
On this last trip we did a ‘preview’ of our wines at a trade tasting event with our new distributor at Oregon Bar and Grill at the Shiodome – just outside the Ginza area. The venue was on the 42nd floor and provided a spectacular view over Tokyo. During the afternoon a trade tasting was held followed by a customer tasting in the evening.
The feedback on our wines was amazing – the Japanese loved the fresh, crisp, pure styles of the aromatic whites and loved the finesse and structure of the Pinot Noir! We showed our 2008 Gewurztraminer and 2008 Riesling, and three of our new releases — 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 Pinot Gris and the 2008 Pinot Noir. At the end of the customer evening, we had people begging us to sell them the left-over wines! Our new distributor was delighted with the feedback and can’t wait to get their first order of our wines there!
It was great catching up with people there too – we had lunch with Carl Robinson from Jeroboam, Ned Goodwin (an Aussie working for Global Dining and hopefully soon will be the first and only MW in Japan), and our good friend Miyuki Ishibashi who was part of our Misha’s Vineyard brand panel and really helped ensure we had the right packaging (and translation) for Japan when we were creating our brand.
We also saw a lot of the sommeliers and retailers that we met back in June at the New Zealand wine fair so it was great to be there again not so long after our last visit – it all help in building those important relationships.
Keep a look out for more updates…
(I’ve just written an article called “Japan – Too Big, Too Hard, or Too Good to Miss” which discusses the Japanese market in detail for Australian Wine Business Monthly which will appear in November ‘09 issue).