Picking the right wine to go with a certain meal can be hard enough in countries with access to hundreds of varieties and a long culture of wine drinking. Doing the same in a place like Japan, which has neither, can be near impossible, which is why Amazon is offering some help.
Amazon Japan announced Tuesday (Feb. 9) that it had launched an on-demand service to connect prospective wine buyers with sommeliers ready to answer any and all questions. Last week, the retailer offered users a free phone consultation with their resident wine experts, who direct consumers to some of the 8,000 types of wine sold by Amazon in Japan. Confused wine shoppers can call between noon and 5 p.m., leave a number and receive a call back and some friendly advice within a few minutes.
Unfortunately for Western winos, the service is only available in Japanese, so anyone wanting to check out one of the on-demand sommeliers should swap out their “Cheers!” for their “Kanpai!”
But why does Japan get an on-demand sommelier hotline when the Western world seems drink wine by the cask? Gizmodo noted that wine is just now becoming a popular drink on the other side of the Pacific. Traditional Japanese alcoholic drinks like sake, derived from rice, and shochu, distilled from potatoes, have ruled the nation’s inebriated palate for centuries, but now almost as much wine is consumed by Japanese drinkers as indigenous drinks.
So while the share of wine drinkers in Japan is growing, the number of people who are familiar with how to pair a wine to Japanese food items — a combination neither the drink nor the food were created for — aren’t. Could they with time? Absolutely. But by jumpstarting the next few years of wine culture in Japan, Amazon gets to literally create the market that it will spend the next few drunken decades selling boozey advice to.