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 Matters relating the characteristics of liquor which is essentially attributable to its geographical origin

  • (1) Characteristics of liquor
    • a. Sensory factors
       Yamagata wines are generally characterized by a refreshing aftertaste of acidity that brings out the original grape flavor and aroma.
      • (a) White wines
         Their colors are greenish yellow to light yellow, light brown or brown. They have a clear grape-derived aroma in the rich and gorgeous scent of flowers and citrus fruits. They have rich acidity, and for dry wines, you can clearly feel the acidity, which harmonizes with other flavors. Sweet wines have well-balanced sweetness and acidity, and both dry and sweet wines have a refreshing aftertaste.
      • (b) Red wines
         Their colors are bright red to reddish purple or deep red. They have a grape-derived aroma, and long-aged wines have the scent of maturity that harmonizes with the fruit aroma. They have refreshing acidity and mild astringency.
      • (c) Rose wines
         Their colors are light pink to orange, sometimes reddish brown. They have a rich grape-derived aroma. Sweet wines have sweetness distinctive of grapes that is well-balanced with acidity, and dry wines have clear refreshing acidity; both dry and sweet wines are fruity and light.
    • b. Chemical factors
       Yamagata wines meet the following requirements in terms of alcoholic content, total sulfurous acid level, volatile acid level, and total acid level, and include effervescent wines.
      • (a) Alcoholic content of 7.0% to less than 20.0%.
         However, an alcoholic content must be less than 15.0% for chaptalized wines, be 4.5% or more for sweet wines (which mean wines with 45 g/L or more of remaining sugar; the same applies hereinafter).
      • (b) Total sulfurous acid level of 350 mg/L or less
      • (c) Volatile acid level of 1.5 g/L or less
      • (d) Total acid level (converted to tartaric acid value) of 4.0 g/L or more
  • (2) Essential attribution of its geographical origin to characteristics of liquor
    • a. Natural factors
       Yamagata Prefecture is located in northern Honshu of Japan and faces the Sea of Japan on the west and mountains such as the Ou Mountains and the Dewa Mountains on the other three directions. Yamagata Prefecture has the Mogami River, which originates from the Okitama region in the south, goes through the prefecture, and flows into the Sea of Japan. Many rivers from surrounding mountains join the Mogami River, formulating several basins in the inland area.
       Grape growing is popular in this region around the Mogami River. Yamagata Prefecture is one of the richest grain-yielding areas in Japan with rice fields spreading over plains in the basins, and therefore grapes are grown mainly in areas not suitable for rice fields that lie between plains and mountains.
       In this geographical origin, sloped land with good drainage causes appropriate moisture stress to grapes and tends to suppress the enlargement of grape berries and concentrate the flavor; this is why the geographical origin is suitable for grape growing.
       The annual daylight hours of the geographical origin are not long, about 1,600 hours; however, the weather is fine on many days during the grape growing period from April to October, and the hours of daylight during that period are about 1,100 hours with good exposure to sunlight. On the other hand, due to a high latitude, it has a cool climate with the average monthly temperature during the grape harvest season being about 25℃ even in the hottest month, and a large temperature difference between day and night facilitates the accumulation of organic acid.
       In addition, relatively little rainfall during that season, which is 800 mm or less, suppresses diseases, etc. of grapes and enables grapes to be harvested generally in a healthy condition; however, large snowfall in winter requires the implementation of measures against humidity and snow for grape growing.
    • b. Human factors
       The grape growing industry in the geographical origin started when a fruit tree experiment station was established in the course of encouragement of new industries in the late 19th century and grew grape varieties such as Black Hamburg, which was a vinifera variety from the West. To establish grape growing in the geographical origin, the use of greenhouses, trellises and other devices were introduced, and vineyards were gradually expanded; however, those vineyards were seriously damaged by the spread of phylloxera pests, which was caused by nursery trees of a labrusca variety introduced in 1910’s.
       Subsequent introduction of stocks immune to phylloxera and promotion of the planting of Delaware grapes made the geographical origin have 335 ha of grape growing area in 1950, which was the third largest grape growing area following Yamanashi and Osaka. In 1960’s, the geographical origin started to produce seedless Delaware grapes through gibberellin treatment and its share in the Tokyo market dramatically increased. In 1980, the total grape growing area was increased to 3,780 ha, and Delaware accounted for 82% of the area.
       Winemaking in the geographical origin started around the end of the 19th century as small production of sweet fruit liquors for medical use, but the production was not expanded due to the damage caused by phylloxera. In 1930’s, Denbei Kamiya, who opened a winery in Ibaraki Prefecture, commenced the growing of Muscat Bailey A and Black Queen as well as winemaking in the geographical origin, and the volume of supply of grapes as raw materials, etc. to major liquor manufactures outside the prefecture increased, gradually enhancing the area’s involvement in winemaking. After 1950, the volume of production rapidly decreased due to the post-war food shortage and a decrease in demand for sweet fruit liquors.
       In this situation, from around 1980, grape growers of the geographical origin again introduced high-quality vinifera varieties, and particularly Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay were established there through the introduction of the hedging-style growing method, measures against snow, installation of vinyl tents for protection from rain, raising the soil temperature through the use of stone walls, and other devices, and then winemaking using those grapes was expanded in earnest.
       In 1984, the Yamagata Prefecture Wine Manufacturers’ Association, which was the second manufacturers’ association related to fruit liquors in Japan, was established to create a system for close information exchange between wine manufacturers.
       Since 1995, manufacturers has endeavored to improve winemaking techniques, etc. through sensory evaluation of wine, holding of wine workshops to exchange information on the improvement of winemaking methods, with the aim to make wines by bringing out the original grape flavor and aroma.
       In 2008, the Yamagata Young Winemakers Association (Association of Vignerons) was established mainly by young winemaking technicians, and it endeavors to maintain and improve the characteristics of Yamagata wines by improving the quality of wines mainly made from labrusca varieties such as Delaware in cooperation with the Yamagata Integrated Agricultural Research Center and the Yamagata Research Institute of Technology or by other means.

 Matters relating to ingredients and production method of liquor

  • (1) Ingredients
    • a.Fruit for use must be only grapes (limited to the varieties specified below) harvested within the scope of the geographical origin
      [Vinifera varieties]
      Muller Thurgau, Kerner, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cortese, Gewürztraminer, Albariño, Petit Manseng, Viognier, Sauvignon blanc, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chasselas, Zweigelt-Rebe, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Gamay, Nebbiolo, Tannat
      [Labrusca varieties]
      Delaware, Niagara, Campbell Early, Concord, Steuben
      [Other varieties]
      Muscat Bailey A, Black Queen, Bailey Alicante B, Bijou Noir, Koshu, Pione, Yama Sauvignon, Hokujun, Harmo Noir, Riesling Lion, Riesling Forte, Seibel 9110, Shine Muscat, Mondo Briller, Himalaya, Shokoshi, Black Pegal, Wine Grand, Vitis coignetiae (Coignetiae, Amurensis), Neo Muscat
    • b.Ingredients for use must be ones specified as raw materials for fruit liquor by Article 3, item 13 of the Liquor Tax Act.
      For a flavoring agent specified in Article 3, item 13 (d) of the same Act, only grape juice or concentrated grape juice (limited to those produced only from grapes harvested within the scope of the geographical origin) may be used.
    • c.Grapes for use must be grapes whose juice sugar content is at least 16.0% for vinifera varieties, 12.0% for labrusca varieties, or 14.0% for other varieties.
      If the weather is bad during the grape growing season, the required juice sugar content for each variety may be decreased by 1.0% only with regard to grapes harvested within the calendar year containing the grape growing season.
    • d. In principle, no water, alcohol, or spirits must be used.
      Brandy may be used only when it is added into a container after fermentation, where the wine has been fermented in the container and is planned to be shipped without being transferred to another container.
  • (2) Production method
    • a.Wines must be produced in Yamagata Prefecture by the method of producing “fruit liquor” specified in Article 3, item 13 of the Liquor Tax Act and be “Japanese wine” specified in paragraph 1, item 3 of the Standard for Indication of Production Method and Quality of Fruit Liquor, etc. (National Tax Agency’s Public Notice No. 18 of October 2015).
    • b. When saccharides are added in accordance with the production method specified in Article 3, item 13 (b), (c) and (d) of the Liquor Tax Act, the total weight of the added saccharides must not exceed the weight of saccharides contained in the fruit.
    • c. When a flavoring agent specified in Article 3, item 13 (d) of the Liquor Tax Act (hereinafter referred to as “Flavoring Agent”) is added, the weight of saccharides contained in the added Flavoring Agent must not exceed 10-100ths of the weight of the fruit liquor after the addition of the Flavoring Agent.
    • d.The total weight of acid added from the harvest of grapes through the bottling of wine that is converted to tartaric acid value must be 6.0 g/L or less.
    • e. An acid-removing agent may be added until the total acid level that is converted to tartaric acid value is reduced by 4.0 g/L.
    • f. In the process of production, wines must be stored within Yamagata Prefecture.
    • g. Bottling must be completed within Yamagata Prefecture with containers planned to be delivered to consumers.

 Matters relating to management for maintaining the characteristics of liquor

  • (1) In order to use geographical indication (GI) “山形 (Yamagata),” the liquor that uses the GI is required to be confirmed by the following control body (hereinafter referred to as the “Control Body”) pursuant to the guidelines for work implementation prepared by the Control Body as to whether the relevant liquor satisfies “Matters relating to the characteristics of liquor with which is essentially attributable to its geographical origin” and “Matters relating to the ingredients and production method of liquor” by the time the relevant liquor is shipped to places (excluding places subject to the provision of Article 28, paragraph 1 of the Liquor Tax Act) from its brewing place (including places deemed as brewing places with the permit to produce liquor by the provision of Article 28, paragraph 6 or Article 28-3, paragraph 4 of the Liquor Tax Act [Act No. 6 of 1953]).

       Name of the Control Body: Geographical Indication of Wine “Yamagata” Use Management Committee
           Location: 2700-1 Oaza Nukanome, Takahata-machi, Higashiokitama-gun, Yamagata
               c/o Takahata Winery Co., Ltd.
          Telephone: 0238-57-4800
  • (2) If the Control Body deems that the weather was bad during the grape growing season, the Control Body shall immediately announce to that effect in accordance with the guidelines for work implementation.

 Matters relating liquor classes


Seishu / Sake

 Matters relating the characteristic of liquor which is essentially attributable to its geographical origin

  • (a) Characteristics of liquor

    • (1) Characteristics

    • “Yamagata” generally has silky and clear texture.
       In particular, Junmai-shu and Honjozo-shu of “Yamagata” is rich, delicate, and mild. Also, Junmai-Daiginjo-shu and Ginjo-shu of “Yamagata” are extremely pure due to a harmonious mixture of their smooth texture and fruity flavor.
    • (2) Essential attribution of its geographical origin to characteristics of liquor

    • (i) Natural factor
    • Yamagata Prefecture is located in the Japan Sea climate zone, where there is heavy snow in winter. This climate brings excellent groundwater of the mountain range in Yamagata, which is indispensable for “Yamagata” brewing. Groundwater in Yamagata is limpid, soft water with low iron content suitable for seishu making. Using this water for brewing “Yamagata” contributes to pure texture.
    • In addition, the bitter winter cold of Yamagata Prefecture suppresses the microbes that spoil seishu and is suited to long-term, low-temperature fermentation. For this reason, Yamagata is an ideal location for special method for Ginjo-shu. Combined with limpid mother water, this climate has helped brewing “Yamagata” with a soft texture.
    • (ii) Human factor
    • In Yamagata Prefecture, under the leadership of the Yamagata Research Institute of Technology and the Yamagata Prefecture Sake Brewery Association (Technological Research Committee), the public and private sectors and local communities have all worked together to organize programs aimed at developing human resources and improving brewing skills. As a result, technical skills of filtration, pasteurization, and storage to preserve the distinctive flavor of freshly pressed seishu have been spread throughout all the breweries in “Yamagata”.
       In Yamagata Prefecture, which is also well known for its fruit production, consumers tend to prefer seishu with fruity, harmonious flavor reminiscent of bananas and of fruits grown in Yamagata, such as Fuji apples, melons, and La France pears. Yamagata Research Institute of Technology has also been conducted to study technologies for seishu brewing, especially Ginjo-shu production.
       Since 1978, the Yamagata Research Institute of Technology and Yamagata Prefecture Sake Brewery Association have been providing short-course to develop human resources for the brewing of Yamagata seishu through lectures and workshops on seishu brewing technology. In 1987, as part of efforts to improve their brewing skills, seishu breweries in Yamagata and the Yamagata Research Institute of Technology's staff members organized the Study Group of brewing Yamagata to provide training focused on the making of Ginjo-shu.
       Also, the brand project “Yamagata Sanga” was launched in 1981 with the aim of developing a Daiginjo-shu that represents Yamagata Prefecture. Since 1985, Daiginjo-shu that passed a severe quality test with a certification rate of 30% to 40% administered by the “Yamagata Sanga” Evaluation Committee have been able to ship under the unified brand name Yamagata Sanga. Consumers' objective evaluation of “Yamagata Sanga” seishu sold on the market is fed back to breweries through study meeting groups and other organizations, thereby improving the overall level of seishu brewing skills in Yamagata Prefecture.
       Their efforts have contributed to producing the unique properties of “Yamagata”.

 Matters relating the raw materials and production method of liquor

  • To use the geographical indication “Yamagata”, it shall satisfy the following conditions:
  • (a) Raw materials
  • - Rice and rice koji should be grown Japan.
  • - Only water originated in Yamagata Prefecture is used to brew “Yamagata”.
  • - Only the materials for seishu specified in Article 3-7 of the Liquor Tax Act (Act No.6 of 1953)are used.
  • However, except for alcohol, seishu materials that are specified in Article 2 of the Ordinance for Enforcement of the Liquor Tax Act cannot be used (alcohol can be used only in cases where the weight of alcohol used does not exceed 50% of the weight of rice used as material (including rice for making koji)).

  • (b) Production method
  • - “Yamagata” must be produced in Yamagata Prefecture by the seishu production method specified in Article 3-7 of the Liquor Tax Act.
  • - In the seishu making process, “Yamagata” must be stored within Yamagata Prefecture.
  • - “Yamagata” must be bottled in Yamagata Prefecture for delivery to consumers.

 Matters relating management to maintain the characteristic of liquor

To use the geographical indication “Yamagata”, it is necessary to obtain confirmation from the following organization based on quality management created by the organization manages sensory test and verifies compliance with product specification.

Yamagata Prefecture Sake Brewery Association
 1-7-46 Midorimachi, Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan

 Matters relating liquor classes

Seishu/Sake (Article 3, Item 7 of the Liquor Tax Act)