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By Kashiko Kawanaka and Taisuke Takeda / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WritersChilean wines became number one in terms of annual import volume in 2015, surpassing French wines, according to Finance Ministry statistics. The annual import volume covers red, white and rose wines.

Though reasonable prices and approachable flavors have propelled the increase in Chilean wines, French winemakers have opened up a big lead over their Chilean counterparts in terms of import value. The challenge for Chilean winemakers now lies in penetrating the Japanese market with more high-end varieties.

According to the Finance Ministry’s trade statistics, announced late last month, the import volume of Chilean wines in 2015 was 51.59 million liters, up 18 percent from a year earlier. It exceeded the 51.51 million liters of imported French wines, which dropped by 3 percent from the previous year. The import volume of Chilean wines has jumped more than sixfold compared to the volume in 2005.

The Economic Partnership Agreement between Japan and Chile that took effect in 2007 is the main factor behind the increase. Since the agreement, the tariff on wine from Chile has been lowered in stages. It is expected to be abolished in 2019.

According to Mercian Corp., the average price of a 750-milliliter bottle of Chilean wine at supermarkets and other retailers is about ¥400 lower than the about ¥1,000 average price of a bottle of French wine.

The value of wine imports to Japan in 2015 was ¥114.2 billion. Of that value, Chilean wine accounted for ¥18.5 billion, about ¥30 billion less than number one-valued French wine.

In Japan, Chilean wine conjures up an image of table wine, a low-priced beverage consumed on casual occasions. The Chilean government is launching efforts to better brand Chilean wine.

Mikhael Marzuqa Butto, minister-counsellor for commercial affairs at the Embassy of Chile in Japan, said, “I hope Japanese people learn that there are many high-quality Chilean wines.”

Japan’s wine market is continuing to expand and competition over sales will likely intensify. Speech

Tag(s) : #International

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