New Zealand: Japanese master sells grapes to top 50 restaurants and cafes

Japanese grape growers who brought their unique grapes to Hawke's Bay are expanding, and are now selling to New Zealand's "top 50" cafes and restaurants. The locally grown large and rich-tasting "budou" (Japanese table grapes) are grown and harvested in Clive, by grape master Tetsuya Higuchi. Their popularity has risen steadily since 2017 when they were sold in the Hawke's Bay farmers market for the first time.

Manager Yumeri Katsura says the budou grape season runs from February to April. This has been their best season for them, she says. "This year we are selling to the top 50 restaurants and cafes (Cuisine), and Mister D Dining, Napier will have a dessert menu with budou grapes."

The way the budou grapes are grown and the care taken to grow them is what makes them stand out from other grapes, she says. Grape master Higuchi's experience from his home town in Fuefuki, Yamanashi, Japan, helps too.

"Our grape master grows budou grapes for the high-end Japanese market. Grapes are a gift in Japan. We put a lot of care and work into it. We grow them in Japanese style. Normal grapes are grown in the trellis system. We grow them in a pergola system. The grapes get all day sun."

The bunches are "nice and tight, not lose" and the grapes are grown seedless, she says. "Our grape master has been growing table grapes in Japan for more than two decades. He's a third generation grape grower."

Yumeri also told how Higuchi was one of the top growers in Japan, producing table grapes for the high-end market, and wanted to supply budou grapes all year so he started looking in the Southern Hemisphere. From four to five "suitable" grape-growing areas, he decided on Hawke's Bay as the best place.

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