Totto Winery, the only winery in Tottori City, reports on its sustainable winemaking practice
April 22nd is "Earth Day," a day dedicated to environmental protection of our planet. We, Totto Winery would like to report on our efforts on sustainable winemaking practice, hoping to make it an opportunity for small producers like us to take actions toward a sustainable society. Despite various constraints and stagnation in consumption and production activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Totto Winery was able to achieve a 150% increase in sales compared to 2021, by fermenting 9,500kgs of grapes in 2022. We are in the process of still growing, but we will continue to practice sustainable winemaking with a strong belief that we want to deliver Totto Wine to as many wine lovers as possible.
Last year, we released our first Sustainability Report on Earth Day. As of April 14, 2023 the Japanese version of the report had been viewed 315 times and the English version 92 times on our website. We appreciate the interest in our efforts from both in and out of Japan.
1. Corporate Philosophy
Totto Winery Co. (Representative Director: Mikako Maeoka) has a corporate philosophy of ‟Creating our future and dreams through the cultivation of grapes and winemaking that will connect people” and is committed to producing wine using grapes grown in-house.
2. Local Environment
The following is a summary of climate data during the grape cultivation period (April to October) in Tottori City, where our company is located.
The average temperature in 2022 was slightly higher than the previous year as a whole.
Figure 1: Average Temperatures in Tottori City from April to October
The figure below shows the trends in average temperature and 3-year moving average in Tottori City. Since around 2014, there has been an increase of about 1 degree Celsius, likely due to the recent global warming.
Figure 2: Trends in average temperature and three-year moving averages in Tottori City
The total amount of precipitation was significantly different from the previous year, with a significant decrease in summer precipitation. Regarding rainfall, there are various trends depending on the year, but it is characteristic of Tottori City to have high precipitation from June to September.
Figure 3 : Trends in total precipitation in Tottori City
1. Results for FY2022
3-1 Progress in agricultural land use with field expansion
We have converted 1.48 ha of abandoned farm land to vineyards between 2007 to 2021 and from 2022 to 2023, we will further add 0.4 ha of new plots with the aim of turning them into mature vineyards*1.
This field was previously used as paddy fields by the landowner until 2021, but due to his aging and other reasons, it has become difficult for him to maintain the paddy fields, and so we are now using it as our agricultural land. Using this land, we are considering increasing the production of our flagship wine, "Yama Blanc," as well as "Ubeno" and "Lino," original grape species of Totto Winery, which we began harvesting since 2022. These varieties were developed in Japan to adapt to the Japanese climate.
In the midst of recent global climate change, we believe that by growing varieties adapted to the Japanese environment, we can steadily increase our wine production and expand the potential of the Japanese wine industry. We will describe details of the varieties later.
The total planned yield of the new plots is 3,484kgs.
*1 The state that the grape berries can be harvested. It usually takes 2~3 years for vines to mature and become ready to harvest fruit.
Photo 1: Planned field for the vineyard (the building in the far right is the winery).
Photo 2: Aerial view of the new planned vineyard site (Source: Google Maps)
3-2 Transition to renewable energy
In our winery business, electricity consumption increases during the fermentation process from summer grape harvesting to autumn wine bottling. The trend of electricity consumption for this year is shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4: Changes in power consumption in 2021 and 2022
Electric Power consumption is an unavoidable issue for our business continuity, however, as of July 2022, we have transitioned all of our electricity usage to renewable energy. This enabled us to achieve a winery operation that is not dependent on fossil fuels.
The power consumption per 1kg of grape processing in the current year was 2.22kWh/kg, a decrease of approximately 34% compared to the previous year. In addition, we have added a wine cellar to improve our wine storage capabilities. Although the total power consumption increased with the introduction of the cellar, we were able to process more grapes than last year by increasing the amount of juice per brewing vessel, and were able to perform low-temperature fermentation for nearly twice the volume of grapes compared to last year. As a result, we have successfully reduced the power consumption per processing volume. Moreover, we can expect an improvement in wine quality. Previously, bottled wines were stored in a corner of the fermentation space, but now the dedicated storage space in the cellar has made it possible to control the temperature and humidity at a constant level and stabilize the wine's aging in the bottle. Temperature and humidity fluctuations are not desirable for wine storage both in barrels nor bottles. For example, high humidity during barrel storage can lead to mold growth, giving the wine an unpleasant aroma. In bottle storage, temperature increase can cause the loss of fruity and aromatic flavors of the wine. Also, direct exposure to light can also accelerate oxidation and the synthesis of compounds, leading to unpleasant odors in the wine. Therefore, creating a storage environment such as a wine cellar is necessary for producing delicious wine. ＊2
＊２(Reference: Hiroki Yokotsuka: Journal of the Brewing Society of Japan, 95, 3, 172-182 (2000))
Table 1： The amount of wine processed and electricity consumption
With the introduction of the new cellar, the number of wine barrels that can be stored has more than doubled, and also more than 10,000 bottles can be stored after bottling. This enables us to accept the challenge to produce higher quality wine with wider variety of tastes to meet the diversifying needs of our customers.
With transition to renewable energy and reducing electricity consumption, we are committed to producing sustainable winemaking.
3-3 Development and cultivation of new grape varieties to prepare for climate change
The new grape varieties which we have developed and cultivated since the company's establishment will be marketed as wine for the first time this year. The new varieties were developed in collaboration with a grape cultivator and breeder, Makoto Umegaki, in Fukuchiyama City, Kyoto with the goal of “producing wine that can be grown without using any pesticides and is compatible with Tottori prefecture's local food.” Mr. Umegaki is an expert who collects wine-specific original hybrids, disease-resistant and wild grapes to continue his research in cultivars which are disease-resistant and with less grape splits suitable for Japan's climate and soil.
Currently, the chemical approach of spraying pesticides is the mainstream approach for pest control, but climate change is causing an increase in the volume of pesticides to be sprayed and a sharp rise in the price of raw materials. Under such circumstances, one way to continue to produce grapes in a stable manner is to create cultivars that can adapt to the changing environment, and we have been working on various varietal crosses and selections.
Umegaki and Totto Winery named this project, “Mother Grape Project" and launched it in 2013. We planted twenty-seven different combinations from various crosses in our plots and cultivated them for four years without any pesticides at all. Among them, we selected several varieties which grew well as trees and bore delicious grapes although they were not entirely disease-free. Of these, we began full-scale cultivation of two cultivars of white wine grape in 2017, and by 2022, we were able to secure sufficient yields for commercialization, and finally, the long-awaited wines were produced.
Although we are still far from our goal, we will continue our research to establish a technology that will enable environmentally friendly cultivation of the cultivars grown in the climate of Tottori, and to brew them into wines that also match local foods. Below are the two varieties that we have started selling this year.
◆Lino (Lino is unregistered varieties in OIV)
Lino is characterized by its refreshing Muscat aroma. When vinified, the wine has a flavor that combines the strong muscat aroma with a firm acidity. Although the yield is still low, it is expected to increase further in 2023 with the maturation of the vineyard.
This cultivar was created from the crossbreeding of disease-resistant varieties owned by Mr. Umegaki.
Photo 3 : Lino
◆Ubeno (Ubeno is unregistered varieties in OIV)
Without being severely damaged by pests or diseases, Ubeno harvested as small bunches suitable for winemaking. Although this was the first year of harvest, the fruit was in good condition and the taste shows promise with both sweetness and acidity. When vinified, the wine gave off a distinctive pineapple-like aroma, with strong sweetness and an acidity that was not present in other white wines.
This cultivar is a crossbreed of Japanese wild grapes to make it suit the climate and soil of Japan.
Photo 4 : Ubeno
3-4 Activities Rooted in the Local Community
In 2022, we focused not only on grape cultivation and winemaking, but also on activities rooted in the local community. Here we report some of our activities.
◆Regular hosting of Yogoto Marché
Originally only occasionally held in 2021, we have now been hosting the Marche on a regular basis between April to July and September to November since 2022, and have attracted approximately 1,000 visitors per year. We will keep hosting it to provide a place for both the locals and people from other area to communicate with each other and also help Kokuhu-cho Aso District to thrive.
Yogoto is written as "吉事" in Japanese, which means "good fortune" or "auspicious event." It is derived from a Tanka (poem) in Man-yoshu, a collection of poetry selected by Otomono Yakamochi, a provincial governor of Inaba in the Nara period: "On this New Year’s Day in the early spring, may a lot of good things pile up like the snowfall today".
Photo 5: Scenes from Yogoto Marche
◆Educational activities related to agriculture
We are also engaged in educational activities to provide hands-on experiences and pass down skills and knowledge related to grape cultivation and wine production.
In 2022, we resumed accepting internship students from Ryukoku University's Faculty of Agriculture, which had been suspended due to the pandemic of COVID19, and also started accepting internship students from national/public universities in Tottori. Two students participated in our experiential program and learned about the winery business and agriculture in Tottori.
Photo 6: Internship program (Student from Tottori University)
Photo 7: Internship program ( Student from Ryukoku University)
3-5 Activities and Achievements (excerpts)
April 22: Released 2022 Version of Sustainability Report
June 27: Lecture at Tottori Prefectural Tottori Higashi High School's "Tottori Learning"
July 7: Guest lecturer at Tottori City Kunifu Junior High School's "Learning from Working
July 22: Tottori SDGs Enterprise Certification
July 29: Accepted 14 students from Tottori Environmental University's Environmental
Science Department for seminar activities
August 23: Conducted winery tour for 16 participants from Tottori University's Small CoRE
September 15: Accepted 30 students from Tottori Minami Junior High School for a field trip October 5: Accepted 35 children from local nursery schools for outdoor childcare.
December 28：Certified as a company promoting Gender Equality in Tottori
February 8, 2023: Lecture at Tottori Prefectural Tottori Higashi High School's "Tottori Learning"
March 7-10：First exhibit at "FOODEX JAPAN2023" (in Tottori Prefecture booth) with over
300 companies visiting.
1. Future Initiatives
Totto Winery will undertake two new projects in 2023. First, we aim to improve the skills of wineries and viticulture farmers in the San-In region by holding regular training sessions on wine grape cultivation. To pass on the ideas and techniques of aforementioned Makoto Umegaki's ideas and techniques to the next generation of winemakers, we have established the "Umegaki Juku" throughout 2023. By conducting training sessions targeting viticulturists, people engaged in winery business, prefectural agents and other experts in San-In region, we will disseminate the technology to achieve sustainable winemaking in the San-In region.
Secondly, we will explore decarbonization in collaboration with research institutions to effectively utilize the carbon dioxide generated from brewing.
During brewing, the yeast releases carbon dioxide during alcohol fermentation. Although this is not counted as the carbon dioxide emissions as it is a biological by-product, we will take on the challenge of researching the use of this carbon dioxide in the cultivation of crops.
Totto Winery Co.