Champagne, the king of bubbles in Japan

Mar 1, 2021 • 3 mins

The figures speak for themselves: in 10 years, the volume of French sparkling wine exports to Japan (mainly champagne) has doubled. Let’s take a closer look at this great achievement.

Japan, the world's 3rd largest importer of champagne

The Land of the Rising Sun is the 3rd largest importer of champagne in the world by value. It is a market considered to be mature and one where the consumers seek quality. The proof: among the champagnes exported to the country, 33% are “cuvées de prestige"!

This demand is also apparent in the various distribution channels: it is relatively easy to get hold of champagne in the country, especially in the big cities. You will find it in supermarkets, on the internet, in French bars and restaurants, as well as at numerous leisure venues and events.

Festive drinking

Although all occasions are a good excuse to drink champagne, champagne does benefit most from its image of celebration and luxury. For Hanami (festive period when the cherry trees are blooming) and other Japanese holidays, year-end celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries... a bottle of champagne is a must. In supermarkets, it is often sold at prices that are pretty reasonable if you consider the distance it has travelled (for example a Nicolas Feuillatte Brut retails at around 3,500 Yen, or 27€, and a Dom Perignon Vintage 2010 at around 18,590 Yen, or 143€).

Host/hostess clubs are another common and typically Japanese place to imbibe champagne. In these establishments, where the alcohol flows freely, Japanese men and women can get together for a few hours to enjoy a drink in the company of hosts or hostesses. A well-known service in these clubs is the "champagne call": when a female customer orders a bottle of champagne (and here the price can easily be as high as 500€ a bottle or more), all the establishment’s guests join her at her table to celebrate the opening of the bottle.

Although many brands of champagne are available in Japan, the largest market shares are mainly held by the big Champagne Houses. The Japanese have a great fondness for Dom Pérignon in particular!

Luxury and femininity

The symbolic association of champagne with luxury and femininity - which can sometimes be to its detriment - is nevertheless why it grabs so much attention in Japan. Alcohol consumption in Japan is widespread among males and females alike, but champagne is particularly popular with women.

What’s more, due to the prestige associated with the champagne appellation, it meets the demand for quality and luxury from a large part of the population. However, Japan was experiencing major economic difficulties even before the Covid-19 pandemic. Price is therefore becoming an increasingly important factor in consumer choice.

But, with the strong symbolism associated with it, it’s a safe bet to say that champagne will always have a special place in the hearts of the Japanese... 

Article written as part of an educational project of the Wine Journalism University Diploma of the Georges Chappaz Institute - University of Reims