Cross-discipline group launched to promote branding of Fukushima wine

9 September 2018

An organization has been launched by industry, academic and public-sector partners in Fukushima Prefecture to establish and brand locally produced wine to help promote reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The group includes wineries and grape growers in nine municipalities in the prefecture. The new entity is intended to step up exchanges of technical know-how among its members. It will also cooperate with Fukushima University’s Faculty of Food and Agricultural Sciences, set to open in April 2019, to boost product quality.

■ Improved wine quality eyed via technical exchanges

The new organization, dubbed the “Fukushima Wine Wide-area Partnership Council (tentative translation),” has been set up as a voluntary group without legal status. It is headed by Professor Yoshihito Ozawa of the university's Faculty of Symbiotic Systems Science. Among the council’s members are wine- and grape-producing organizations and individuals, including Fukushima Ouse Winery in Koriyamaity, Iwaki Winery in Iwaki and Tomioka Wine Club in Tomioka, some municipalities that host wine industry-related organizations, and Fukushima University.

The group is seeking to develop Fukushima’s wine production as a “sixth industry,” a central government-advocated concept designed to make the primary industry more sophisticated by diversifying it into processing and distribution. Its management will be funded by a Cabinet Office subsidy program for regional revitalization.

In Fukushima, technological capabilities and manpower vary according to winemaking areas. How to establish a local wine production industry is a challenging issue faced by the prefecture. The council will promote branding of Fukushima wine by boosting product quality and technological levels through partnership among its members, thereby establishing local wine as a reputable product.

In cooperation with Fukushima University, the entity will also promote partnership with Yamanashi University, which has the Institute of Enology and Viticulture, the only domestic institution for wine education. Under the partnership, the council will seek to have interested parties in Fukushima take part in a Yamanashi University program through teleconferencing and other remote systems. The program is for such people as working adults and graduate students to become wine experts. The group also plans to use the outcome of research by Fukushima University’s new grape farming faculty.

In one of the initial projects in fiscal 2018, the council is scheduled to invite grape-growing specialists from across Japan to its members' vineyards to receive advice on cultivation methods, among other matters. Group members will also visit each other’s vineyards while a workshop, to which nonmember producers and others are to be invited, is planned to help them better understand the group’s activities and efforts.

In the future, the council plans to cooperate with municipalities of group members in undertaking campaigns to promote sales of Fukushima wine while holding wine tourism events that allow visitors to tour wineries in the prefecture.

“We will make efforts to build relationships in which winery operators and members of grape-growing bodies in the prefecture know one another,” said Hideya Kitamura, 57, secretary general of the council. “We hope that many wine-related parties in Fukushima will participate in the group.”

(Translated by Kyodo News)