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Food and Drink

Beaujolais Nouveau makes bigger splash in Japan

Japanese wine importers have purchased 5 percent more Beaujolais Nouveau than last year as the drink's popularity bounces back.

This year's wine went on sale in Japan on Thursday, with retailers hoping sales will be boosted by lower prices - thanks to the strong yen - allied with the increasing use of plastic bottles.

And it helps that this year's wine is reportedly as good as the 2009 version, with a sweet and fruity flavor.

"The number of cases of Beaujolais Nouveau imported peaked at slightly more than 1 million in 2004, but declined after that," Kiyoshi Yokoyama, general manager of the corporate communications department of Mercian Corp., told Relaxnews.

"We think that trend bottomed last year, when only 500,000 cases were imported, and we think that people are more conscious of the product and will again be buying Beaujolais Nouveau," he said.

After proving a success last year - despite some criticism from wine purists - plenty of Beaujolais Nouveau is being poured from plastic bottles.

Importers say their state-of-the-art plastic bottles are just as good as glass ones - plus they help increase sales by making the product cheaper because each bottle is lighter and therefore less expensive to transport from France.

Supermarket chain Aeon Co. is selling 375-millilitre plastic bottles for Y500 (€4.38), while rival chain Seiyu GK has 750-millilitre plastic bottles for Y690 (€6.05).

Thanks to the strength of the yen, importers have been able to knock around Y50 (€0.44) of the price of each bottle.

Glass bottles - including most of the Albert Bichot Beaujolais Nouveau imported by Mercian - are more pricey at around Y2,000 (€17.54) a bottle.

"This drink is most popular in Japan among women aged between 20 and their late 40s, but the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau creates a major media stir every year and we are seeing a broader consumer base this year," said Yokoyama.

For the first time, Mercian is importing a rose Beaujolais Nouveau, he added, which he hopes will also prove popular with female drinkers, while the company asked model and actress Moe Oshikiri to design the labels for one of this year's bottles.