Grapes are largely categorized into American varieties from the North American continent and European varieties from the Caucasus region between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. Ripened grapes are known for their extravagant scent and extremely sweet taste. Grapes contain large amounts of polyphenol, which is a functional substance that works as an antioxidant.
The Hokkaido government introduced grapes in 1873 and today they are the fruit grown most widely across Hokkaido with the largest cultivation area. The varieties of grapes grown here are wide ranging, as one single producing area could be growing more than 10 varieties in close proximity. Additionally, Hokkaido grows a large amount of wine grapes, so much so that the prefecture boasts the largest cultivation area of wine grapes in all of Japan.
Grapes are grown across Hokkaido, but the main producing areas are Yoichi Town, Niki Town, and Urausu Town in the Shiribeshi and Sorachi regions.
■Map / Main producing municipalities
Yoichi Town, Niki Town, Urausu Town, Furano City, Otaru City, Sobetsu Town, Fukagawa City, Assabu Town, Mikasa City, Kyowa Town
Hokkaido-grown grapes are highly sweet and tart because of the cool climate they are grown in, which produces a clean and refreshing taste. During the harvest season in the fall many farms offer u-pick opportunities to attract tourists.
Grapes in Japan are cultivated using independent trellises. This is because there is more rainfall than in Europe or North America, which causes vines to grow too long and often intertwine, resulting in poor fruit production and more frequent occurrence of disease. Grape vines are placed horizontally to improve air flow and exposure to sunlight. Meanwhile, wine grapes are grown with espaliers instead of trellises. This makes it possible to quickly distinguish between the grapes being grown in each field, either wine grapes or those intended for eating. Vast grape fields extending across huge slopes is a beautiful sight seen in Hokkaido. Additionally, grapes grown on espaliers are buried in snow during the winter, which protects the vines from freezing in the bitter cold. In recent years, winery tours have become quite popular following the increase in the number of grape growers and wine producers.
Grapes are best known as a taste of fall. The harvest runs from the end of August to the end of October.