Full-fledged wine production began in Japan from the latter half of the 19th century and wineries have since been constructed in various parts of the country, including mainly in Yamanashi and Hokkaido. For many years, wine with a higher sugar content and pleasant scent made from sweet grapes was popular, but in the 1970s consumption of authentic wine surpassed that of sweet wine.
Since the wine boom at the end of the 1990s, a huge variety of wines have been imported to Japan from around the world and the number of companies and individuals starting up production of domestically made wine is increasing.
In recent years, with improving wine quality and growing interest in wineries across Japan, there has been a boom in wine tourism, similar to Europe and the United States, where people visit wineries to enjoy a nice meal served with wine.
Wineries are located in 23 locations across Hokkaido (as of January 2015). Many are concentrated in the Ishikari, Sorachi and Shiribeshi regions of Central Hokkaido. Wine is also produced in Ikeda Town of the Tokachi area and Nanae Town, Hakodate City, Otobe City, and Okushiri Town of Southern Hokkaido, Toyako Town of the Iburi region and Mashike Town of the Rumoi region.
■Map / Main producing municipalities
Ikeda Town, Furano City, Nanae Town, Otaru City, Yoichi Town, Toyako Town, Sapporo City, Mikasa Town, Iwamizawa City, Okushiri Town
Hokkaido has the same climate as Germany and the Champagne region of France where wine grapes are cultivated. The combination of very little bad weather, cool and dry summers, and large temperature differences between day and night make Hokkaido an ideal location to grow European varietals.
This climate and the high quality wine grapes grown in huge numbers have put the spotlight on Hokkaido. There has been an increasing number of winemakers from Japan and abroad who are relocating to Hokkaido to start small-scale local wineries.
One of the attractions of Hokkaido’s wine country is also driving around to view the beautiful sight of wine fields and surrounding scenery.
There are many types of wine made in Hokkaido and they can be purchased throughout the year. Many times the wines of popular wineries sell out quickly, so be sure to check with the wine shop before you go.