Where to find wines of Japan
There are around 250 wine producers in Japan. The proportion making grapes from exclusively Japanese-grown grapes has increased rapidly in the last decade. Yamanashi has the greatest concentration of vineyards and producers: many wineries are still run by the 4th or 5th generation of the founding family. Producers such as Marufuji, Lumiere, Grace Wines and Katsunuma-Jyozo are examples of these venerable family wineries. These quality-focussed, small production producers have been in the vanguard of Japanese wine exports and global profile.
For decades, wine production in Japan was dominated by multi-national firms. Suntory and Mercian are notable for both their size and positive influence on the domestic wine scene. Both have invested heavily in quality, new vineyards, wineries, training and research, and have shared their knowledge and expertise with the entire industry. This benign big company influence and leadership is highly significant.
A new generation of artisan wineries has grown up in the last 10-15 years. Situated in particular in Nagano and Hokkaido, they are characterized by tiny production, natural winemaking methods, and impeccable quality. Producers such as Domaine Takahiko on Hokkaido, and Kusunoki in Nagano were attracted partly by the (relative) availability of land or grapes. (Although both come at a premium in Japan.) Superstar wine stars in Japan, these producers, and others like them are emerging onto the global market despite huge domestic demand and tiny quantities.
The Visit Japanese Winery website is a useful resource that details producers across Japan making wine from Japanese-grown grapes.