Constructed heritage and co-produced meaning: the re-branding of wines from the Koshu grape

Kingsbury, Aaron

The last decade has seen large-scale cultural changes in the table grape and wine production industries of the Kōfu Basin in Yamanashi Prefecture. From the perspective of wineries, the recent rise in popularity of wines produced from the Koshu grape (Vitis vinifera var. orientalis) has secured their industrial recovery in the short term. This paper explores these changes, thereby contributing to the literature on the invention of traditions for economic profit and rural revitalization. Conclusions are drawn from archival research, interviews with stakeholders in the table grape and wine industries, and over one and one-half years as a grape farmer in the Kōfu Basin. Rather than significant improvements in educational or technical advancement in growing Koshu for wine or even wine production, the rise in popularity of wines produced from Koshu is argued to be more linked to the cultural re-branding of the grape based on co-produced and glocalized perceptions of simulacra in which the historical and local consumption of Koshu wine is equated with Japanese cuisine and culture. By connecting Koshu with Japanese identity and “Japaneseness,” branded wines now provide new opportunities for conspicuous consumption and “connoisseurship” for consumers.