《New styles of delicious alcohol from the north》

The producers of distinctive alcoholic beverages help to support the stagnating Hokkaido economy during the Coronavirus pandemic and perhaps possess the presence to refresh the region. In this ‘New styles of delicious alcohol from the north’ series, we explore the strengths and unique techniques of Hokkaido-produced alcohol, and its links with food.

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《New styles of delicious alcohol from the north》 A drop of aspiration to refresh the region- highly rated natural features

Professor Sone Teruo

Why are producers of alcohol popping up around Hokkaido right now? We asked Sone Teruo (51), professor of Applied Microbiology at Hokkaido University Research Faculty of Agriculture, who is knowledgeable about wine and whisky produced in Hokkaido.

■Hokkaido University Graduate School professor Sone Teruo

 Whether it’s an individual who has opened a winery, or the use of capital from Honshu to make Japanese sake or whisky, the thing they all have in common is a strong will to “want to make it in Hokkaido”. That is probably because Hokkaido’s ‘terroir’ (factors such as the land’s character and natural features that affect the crops) is highly regarded. As a region that produces raw ingredients such as grapes, sake-rice, barley, its landscapes and natural environment are also excellent.

 I believe one of the factors behind the boom is the ease with which stories can be depicted around “revitalization of depopulated areas”, “northernmost Japan” and the like, to attract the interest of people from Honshu or overseas. Of course, the ‘Hokkaido brand’ is strong throughout the world, especially in Asia.
 Right now, the most important thing is not to throw cold water on the trend, and to maintain the quality of the products. Like the ‘Wine Academy’ organized by the Hokkaido government, efforts to teach techniques and knowledge to potential newcomers are vital.

 I want wineries, sake breweries and whisky distilleries to aim at being bearers of a new culture of this northern land. There are obviously constraints during the Coronavirus pandemic but each maker should consider opening up the production sites, having dialogues with tourists and combining the alcohol with delicacies of the sea and land in each region. The accumulation of these efforts will create Hokkaido’s new appeal and lead to regional vitalization.

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Hokkaido University Research Faculty of Agriculture

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