Japan’s southernmost winery created in Okinawa Prefecture

OKINAWA, Nov. 23 — Japan’s new southernmost winery was set up in the village of Onna in Okinawa Prefecture.

Production of grapes is extremely low in Okinawa where there are a lot of hot days, but agriculture production corporation Okinawa Budou cultivates a native grape variety that colors well even under warm climate conditions in order to produce wine.

It had been outsourcing wine making but obtained a production license and started producing wine by itself. It hopes the product will take root like beer and awamori distilled liquor as Okinawa’s new alcoholic beverage.

Koji Nakata, 58, head of Okinawa Budou, and his wife Tomoko, 48, grows Ryukyu-ganebu, a wild grape variety that turns deep black even in the subtropical prefecture, on a 30-are land.

Tomoko, whose main occupation is a sommelier, said, “(Our) wine is less tannic and has a wild and acidic flavor. It goes well with dishes seasoned with dashi (Japanese soup stock) such as Goya Champuru (Okinawa-style stir-fried dish with bitter melon, egg, tofu and pork belly).”

They came up with the idea of growing the grapes after Tomoko saw Ryukyu-ganebu mentioned in a book of wines as Okinawa’s native grape.

Koji’s main occupation is a chef and the couple, who runs a restaurant with a lodging facility, decided to take on the challenge of cultivating grapes although they had no experience, with hopes of offering wine made from locally-produced grapes to their customers.

They started planting grape trees in 2006, and after a lot of trial and error, their first wine was made in 2010.

They initially entrusted wine production to a winery in the Kanto region.

This year, the village of Onna was designated as a “special zone for wine production” under the National Strategic Special Zone scheme, which means the area is subject to exception under the Liquor Tax Law. This allows wineries in the area to obtain a brewing license if they produce a minimum of 2 kiloliters of wine per year instead of 6 kiloliters.

The couple obtained the license in October and plans to start producing wine by the end of this year.

It will become the country’s southernmost winery that uses locally-grown grapes, according to the village.

Koji and Tomoko Nakata check a bunch of Ryukyu-ganebu native grapes in Onna, Okinawa Prefecture.

Koji and Tomoko Nakata check a bunch of Ryukyu-ganebu native grapes in Onna, Okinawa Prefecture.


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