JAPAN CALLED RIPE AS WINE MARKET

JAPAN CALLED RIPE AS WINE MARKET

Wine drinking in Japan hasn't reached the levels of other industrialized nations, but a U.S. Department of Agriculture observer said changes may be under way.

''Both the mass and upscale wine markets seem ripe for growth," said Laverne E. Brabant, U.S. agricultural trade officer in Tokyo. "For upscale markets, U.S. exporters have found success by upgrading their lines to include premium labels."Ms. Brabant said in the March issue of AgExporter magazine that Japanese consumers are new to wine shopping and that marketers "should concentrate on educating the public about the superior qualities of these more expensive products."

Japanese wine industry sources believe larger imports of bottle wines will be needed, Ms. Brabant said, and growth is forecast at annual rates of 15 percent to 30 percent for the next several years.