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Japan: New Wine Labeling Regulation

(Nov. 4, 2015) Japan did not previously have regulations on the labeling of wine made from grapes, except for the industry’s own regulations. As more wine is drunk in Japan and more domestic manufacturers make wines, clearer regulations have been sought by consumers. (Alcohol Tax Division, 16th Meeting Minutes (June 17, 2015), National Tax Council website (in Japanese).) In October 2015, the National Tax Agency (NTA) established a new rule on wine labelling. (On Setting Standards for the Labeling of Fruit Wine Manufacturing Methods and Quality], NTA Notification No. 18 of 2015 (in Japanese).) Japanese wine is defined as wine made only of grapes harvested in Japan, and such beverages will be labeled “Japanese Wine.” (Id. § 1(3).) For domestically made wine, including Japanese wine, the ingredients are labeled as follows:

a. Name of fruit: Top two fruits in the beverage, by quantity, must be named. The term “other fruits” can be applied for fruits used in smaller amounts.

b. Concentrated fruit juice: Either “xx (fruit name) juice from concentrated” or “concentrated xx juice” is used.

c. Imported wine: when imported wine is blended into domestic wine, “imported wine” is included on the label.

d. Other domestically manufactured wine: when other domestic wine is blended into a wine, its ingredients are also listed in the same manner. (Id. § 2(2).)

Notification No. 18 also sets rules on the use of geographical indications in wine labels. For items (a) and (b) above, the label must indicate whether the ingredients are domestic or imported. Instead of “domestic,” the name of the Japanese prefecture or area can be used. Instead of “imported,” the country of origin can be described. For item (c) above, the name of the country of origin can be added. (Id. § 2(3).) For Japanese wine products, the name of the area can be used on the label, in addition to the ingredient list, if more than 85% of grapes come from one area. The labels can read “xx wine.” If the place where the beverage is fermented is different from where the grapes are grown, that fact is described by using language such as “made of grapes from xx.” The fermenting location can be added to all domestic wine labels, with a statement such as “fermented in xx.” (Id. § 5.)