Roddy Ropner IWA

Roddy Ropner is a wine writer and researcher based in Japan, focusing on the Japanese wine market. He is also a Vinitaly International Academy Ambassador.

His first career was with Christie’s auction house. The initial ten years as a specialist of Chinese porcelain were followed by ten years in management roles including Managing Director of Christie’s Japan.

He currently writes for Meininger’s Wine Business International and Decanter about the Japanese wine market.

Sophisticated importers, rigid wine writers and star sommeliers, how they set the wine market trends in Japan

Japan is Asia’s second largest wine market and the sixth largest importer of wine worldwide. For wineries wanting to export it represents a sophisticated market that is politically stable and one where long-term relationships are valued. It is a mature market with well-trained, knowledgeable and dedicated staff in the on and off-trade. Japan also boasts one of the most cultivated restaurant and bar scenes anywhere in the world. Japan’s top restaurants are destinations for gourmets from around the globe but especially from other Asian countries (in pre-pandemic times). As such they influence taste around the region. While Japanese wine consumers have traditionally been ‘Francophile’ the market is very broadminded and open to new or less well-known regions. Many of the more successful regions are supported by regional bodies / agencies who undertake local promotional activities. Key trends include sparkling wine, ‘low-intervention wines’, promotion of wine sets, changes in wine packaging. Experienced importers, many with decades of experience; dedicated wine writers, rather than ‘social media influencers’; and an army of trained sommeliers are among those who influence the market. All these positives need to be tempered by the knowledge that the aging population and deflation continue to constrain the market.