Sone: Nouvelle Vague means NEW WAVE in English. We envision a future where the ripple effects of wine promotion will revitalize the production areas and Hokkaido as a whole.

Professor Teruo Sone

Some people may be surprised and ask, "Studying wine at university?" The Hokkaido Wine Nouvelle Vague Laboratory, which was established in April 2021, provides a place where you can learn a wide range of topics, including wine, agriculture, food, marketing, and town development. An unfamiliar course at Hokkaido University called ``Hokkaido Sustainable Wine Studies'', which is open to all graduate students at Hokkaido University, is also very popular with students. We asked Teruo Sone, Hokkaido University's wine doctor, to explain the purpose of the research.

Wine promotion is booming since 2015, and masters are emerging in Hokkaido

Before we talk about wine research, I would like to ask that Professor Sone concurrently holds the Applied Molecular Microbiology Laboratory at the Graduate Graduate School of Agriculture and the ``Hokkaido Wine Nouvelle Vague Laboratory,'' which is an endowed chair. .

Sone: Yes, that's right. Before getting serious about wine, I had been researching microorganisms, specifically rice pathogens, for a long time. Wine has been a theme I've wanted to work on for a while, but I just couldn't find the right environment or timing to do it. In my mind, I thought I had "sealed" it once.

Around 2015, the situation suddenly started to change. The Hokkaido Government started to get serious about promoting wine, and I was asked to become an instructor at a wine school sponsored by the Hokkaido Government. Furthermore, Hokkaido University has begun preparations to open Graduate School of Global Food Resources, and is holding a course inviting well-known lecturers from UC Davis, which is known worldwide for its enology. The wind was blowing.

The time has come to break the "seal". What made you want to study wine in the first place?

Sone: My parents' house used to be a liquor store. I entered Hokkaido University because I wanted to study plants, and when I returned home during my first year, I looked at the bookshelf at my parents' house looking for a topic for my geography report, and there I found it filled with books about wine. When I started reading it with a casual mindset, I became hooked on the fun of wine.


As of January 2022, there are 53 wineries in Hokkaido. Some wineries have been well-known for a long time, such as Tokachi Wine in Ikeda Town, Hokkaido Wine in Otaru (Otaru Wine), and Hakodate Wine, but in the past 10 years, small family-run wineries have been opening mainly in Yoichi Town and Niki Town. It has increased rapidly. What do you think is the reason?

Sone: One factor is the change in climate, which has made it possible to grow varieties other than traditional white wine even in the cold region of Hokkaido due to the effects of global warming, but the biggest factor is ``people.'' . I think the biggest factor is that people with a cohesive force in winemaking have begun to emerge.

First is Yamazaki Winery, which is run by a family in Mikasa City. Mr. Yamazaki and his colleagues took on the challenge of cultivating Pinot Noir, a red wine grape variety that was still rare in Hokkaido at the time, and the wine they made from grapes from the first year they harvested suddenly received high praise from critics around the world. . We have shown domestically and internationally that it is possible to make such delicious wine with Japanese Pinot, and more importantly, Hokkaido Pinot!

Another key person is Bruce Gutlove, a brewer from Iwamizawa City. Bruce is a skilled winemaker who studied winemaking at UC Davis. I was invited by Coco Farm, a winery in Tochigi Prefecture, to become the winemaker, and then moved to Japan permanently.

This time, he moved to Hokkaido with the aim of making wine, which is his ideal. In 2009, we launched "10R Winery" in Iwamizawa City. What attracted the attention of the industry at this time was Japan's first contract brewery system, where young people looking to start a winery could bring in their own grapes and study winemaking under Mr. Bruce. that I made it. I think this was huge.

Takahiko Soga, who was the head of cultivation at Coco Farm, is now making wine at his own winery, Domaine Takahiko, which he established in Yoichi Town, which has the largest number of wineries in Hokkaido. The wine he created was so well received that it was included in the wine list of the world-famous restaurant ``Noma'' in Copenhagen, and it has become a gem that is not available even locally. I'll come back to this later.


A logo was created by combining the shapes of grapes, trillium, and yeast.

Bringing everyone together through the common language of “wine” and “sustainable”

How does winemaking connect with university academics and research?

Sone: For example, both white and red wines always have a process of fermenting grapes in barrels, but at this time, what kind of microorganisms are present in the wine (harvested grapes are used as they are without washing them), and what kind of functions do they have? I think there are probably an overwhelming minority of wineries that continue to scientifically investigate and collect data.

Wine grape farmers are busy every day, so it is difficult to find the time and effort to conduct research. It is the role of universities, which are research institutions, to help with this. Nowadays, "next-generation sequencers" that can rapidly decode complex genetic information (genome sequences) in DNA and RNA have been developed, and microbial research is progressing rapidly.

Even in the same Pinot Noir, how do the microorganisms differ between Yoichi Town and Furano City? In the future, I hope to be able to use the power of science to decipher the unique characteristics of each region.



Sone: It's just that (lol), but the purpose of the Hokkaido Wine Nouvelle Vague Laboratory is not just to research what's inside the barrels. If you were to start a winery, you would first need to research the weather conditions and soil properties of the area, and study brewing like the young people who gather with Mr. Bruce. You need to look at the current market and think about all kinds of things, such as what kind of taste you want to make, who your target audience is, and what sales channels you want consumers to use to buy the finished wine.

Our aim is to work together with people from various specialized fields from such a comprehensive perspective to revitalize not only producers, but also the regions where wineries are located, and by extension, Hokkaido. In this sense, we named our laboratory ``Nouvelle Vague,'' or NEW WAVE in English.

Wines that are unique to a region can only be created based on the climate (terroir) of the region. So, as I mentioned earlier, it is very unfortunate that local people, who should be in a position to support local producers, cannot drink the wine made by local producers. Giving back to the region is also included in our agenda.

The laboratory's website lists "2 Hunger," "9 Innovation," and "12 Sustainable Consumption and Production" out of the 17 SDGs.

Sone: In order to make Hokkaido wine sustainable in the future, we need to think about it from all aspects: producers, drinkers, researchers, and supporters.

As for the producers, although the taste of the wine they make, the brewing method, and the vision they are aiming for may differ, there are some examples of things like, ``I try to reduce the use of pesticides as much as possible,'' or ``I teach classes to local elementary school students in the field.'' If everyone becomes aware of sustainability in their own way, it will be possible for Hokkaido as a whole to move on the same path. I imagine that the keyword "sustainable" will become a common language for unique creators.

It may be too early for high school students, but there is one misconception about wine that you should clear up now. That is, ``You don't have to drink wine until you're drunk'' (lol).

Originally, wine was meant to be enjoyed during meals. The most natural and ideal way to enjoy wine is to pair it with locally grown ingredients. One of the goals of this laboratory is to eliminate the high hurdles and misconceptions surrounding wine.

Check out the grape seedlings at Yoichi Orchard

Check out the grape seedlings at Yoichi Orchard

Cultivating potential supporters by incorporating tastings into lectures

In recent years, we have often heard that young people are turning away from alcohol, but I have heard that Hokkaido University's graduate school common lecture, ``Hokkaido Sustainable Wine Studies,'' is very popular.

Sone: Yes, I'm happy to say that more than 60 graduate students gathered in our first year, far exceeding our expectations.

In terms of developing sustainable drinkers and supporters, about 60% of new students at Hokkaido University are from outside Hokkaido, and the majority choose Hokkaido University because they ``admiration for Hokkaido.''

After those students graduate from graduate school, even if they are not directly involved in wine making, when they enter the workforce in various parts of the country, they remember things like, ``I learned about Hokkaido wine,'' and ``I helped out with the harvest at that winery.'' If you feel more attached to it than anyone else, I'm sure you'll become a great supporter of Hokkaido wine.

With this future in mind, we also conduct practical tastings during lectures that only graduate students can do, rather than undergraduate students, some of whom may be minors. Again, there's no need to drink until you're drunk (lol). First of all, we provide a place to introduce it so that people can get an idea of ``this is what it tastes like.''

The first graduate school common lecture “Hokkaido Sustainable Wine Studies” was held at the School of Agriculture Auditorium. More than 60 people registered for the course, exceeding expectations.

This is a challenge unique to Hokkaido University, which offers a very wide range of learning.

Sone: Hokkaido University has traditionally placed emphasis on practical studies, and I think there is always a perspective that research can be useful to society through circulation. If I had to add one more thing here, it would be that what I have learned through this journey will also benefit me.

In particular, student days are a time in life when you can try many different things. I would like you to take this course for your future self, without dismissing it from the beginning just because you're not interested in wine.

Have you ever heard the phrase "Think globally, act locally" in the context of SDGs and environmental issues? As someone who lives in Hokkaido and is enrolled at Hokkaido University, I interpret the second half of the article, ``acting locally'', as thinking about incorporating Hokkaido's issues into one's own research field.

I am grateful that wine has given me the opportunity to realize this, and I look forward to working with you all to explore wine research that only Hokkaido University, the only comprehensive university in Hokkaido, can do.

Work experience at a winery

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Teruo Sone Professor

Affiliation: Hokkaido University Graduate Research Faculty of Agriculture Applied Molecular Microbiology Laboratory
Hokkaido Wine Nouvelle Vague Laboratory

Specialty: Applied microbiology, plant pathology, oenology Originally from Shizuoka Prefecture. Entered Hokkaido University and enrolled in School of Agriculture. I enjoyed researching microorganisms, so I settled in Hokkaido, and I am already very conscious of myself as a Hokkaido citizen. Grow grapes in your own garden and learn firsthand the joys and difficulties of winemaking. Applied Molecular Microbiology Laboratory