Savvy vintner eyes Japan

00:15, Jul 23 2009
SELLING MARLBOROUGH: Shige Kimura, with his wife, Mieko, and son, Ryo, is planning to export 3000 bottles of 2009 Marlborough sauvignon blanc to Japan in a step toward realising their dream of owning their own vineyard and wine brand.

A Japanese beginner winemaker has a passion for the passionfruit flavours of some savs. So he's making some to send back to Japan.

A Blenheim-based Japanese man is so convinced there is a gap in the Japanese market for Marlborough sauvignon blanc he has established his own label for export.

Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology student and trained sommelier Shige Kimura decided 2009 would be the year to establish his own label, Kimura Cellars, to produce Marlborough sauvignon blanc for export to Japan.

Mr Kimura said that while some Marlburians were starting to get a little sick of the flagship variety it remained one of his favourites, especially as it paired well with Japanese food.

New Zealand Winegrowers global marketing director Chris Yorke said Japan was New Zealand's 10th largest export market with exports valued at $10.5 million for the last 12 months.

He said half of these exports were sauvignon blanc followed by pinot noir then chardonnay.


"We see Japan and Asia as one of the key growth markets in the next five to 10 years."

Mr Kimura was working as a sommelier when he travelled to France to learn more about wine. He found the experience so fascinating he decided it was time to learn about winemaking.

In 2004 the Tokyo native moved to the Hawkes Bay, with his wife, Mieko, to complete a Certificate in Winemaking and Grapegrowing from the Eastern Institute of Technology.

He worked a few vintages across New Zealand and the United States. He also worked in vineyards including a year and a half at Clos Henri in Marlborough.

In 2007 Villa Maria hired Mr Kimura permanently in the cellar.

Determined to one day be a winemaker, own his own vineyards and have his own label, he enrolled in a Diploma in Viticulture and Wine Production at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology while his wife enrolled in a long-distance learning course through EIT to learn about wine and viticulture.

Despite this being his first year of the diploma, he decided 2009 would be the year to produce his first vintage under the label "Kimura Cellars".

Seeing a gap in the Japanese market for sauvignon blanc, Mr Kimura set about finding a contract grower.

He headed to the Wairau Valley.

"I like to make the wine that has lots of passionfruit flavour."

With grapes sourced, he secured space at Te Whare Ra to make his wine.

One day the couple hope to own their own vineyards and make their own wine but know this may not happen for a long time.

"It is a dream at this stage because of financially difficult. However, I may be able to find investors who help my dream if I gain a degree of oenology and viticulture and keep making quality wine."

Kimura Cellars will bottle its first vintage next month. He plans to use existing contacts in Japan to help sell his wine.

The Marlborough Express