A project is under way in the heart of Nagoya to produce local wine as soon as this summer while overcoming the difficulties of meeting strict content requirements in a quest to get the metropolis's name on its label.
On the ground floor of what used to be a mahjong parlor in a dated three-story building in the central Japan city's Nishi Ward, Noriyuki Baba, 55, and others have been preparing to make what would be called "Nagoya wine."
The winemaker's goal is to make casual wine and establish a new culture of urban wineries.
The Nagoya Winery project originally started among business owners and others from a local shopping street, but it fell apart as the coronavirus pandemic hit their own businesses hard.
Baba, who runs a tourist farm, a farmer's restaurant and a winery in Tokoname, an Aichi Prefecture city to the south, learned of the situation and thrust himself into the project in their stead.
He started wine-making around 15 years ago after visiting Portland in the U.S. state of Oregon, where wineries are set up in urban areas. "Locals were enjoying drinking wine," he said. "That was a happy scene."
Baba felt that his project in Nagoya, a metropolis with a population of some 2.3 million, would be close to what he had seen in Portland.
Under National Tax Agency regulations, for a wine brand to have a locality's name on its label in Japan, locally produced grapes must make up more than 85 percent of its contents and be produced there.
Baba will initially purchase grapes from local farmers until his vineyard is ready.
At the 2,000-square-meter vineyard in Nagoya's Midori Ward, he has planted 100 saplings of Albarino, a type of grape that is widely cultivated in Spain. Spain's high temperatures and humidity are similar to the climate in Nagoya.
Baba aims to start harvesting grapes from his vineyard in the summer of 2025.
Wine made using a row of stainless tanks installed at the
60-sq-meter winery on the ground floor is scheduled to be served at a restaurant on the second floor.
Baba's goal is to make wine that can be enjoyed by ordinary people who are not particularly steeped in wine.
"Cities are full of innovative people who are willing to try new things. As a winery, we want to try new things while learning from mistakes," Baba said.
Japan's Takara Holdings invests in sake startup to boost U.S. sales
FOCUS: Alcohol hikes add to bars' woes as they adapt to reopening Japan
FEATURE: Sake brewers building brand cachet by cultivating bespoke rice crops