by Lauren Shannon

It used to be that good wine in Tokyo was a luxury product. You could get cheap bad wine but if you wanted something palatable or famous you would need to shell out big bucks to savor and swirl.

These days, that is not the case. Tokyo is a wine city. Wine bars, fantastic Michelin-star restaurants with stellar wine lists, and wine shops make great wine available, but what you might not know is that wonderful wine can also be affordable.

There are more and more small independent wine companies importing and promoting a wide selection of varietals. Many of these companies are selling their wines online and at retail shops. One of our favorites is Orca International. On their website you can buy great North West wines from the USA delivered straight to your home and their ‘Sip of the Month’ is always a great deal. Orca also regularly schedules large tasting parties where you can sample 50–80 different wines and order on the spot. The next wine party is coming up on Feb. 7—find out the details on their website.

Hotei and Tomei wines are two companies that specialize in fantastic California wines at reasonable prices. Hotei has built up a very loyal following over the years and has a small but stellar selection. You can sign up for a mailing list on their site and they will stay in touch about new releases and specials. They sell to retail customers predominately online. Tomei, a newcomer to the wine scene has an innovative wine tasting shop in Yokohama where you can sample the wares before investing in some bottles to take home.

Costco Japan (with new locations opening up regularly) is gaining a reputation for quality wines and discount prices. Though their stock here still leans toward bulk or box wine, they are moving more and more into the premium wine market.

There are also monthly specials and great wine deals at the twin, gaijin-famous grocery stores: National Azabu in Hiroo and Nissin World Delicatessen in Azabu Juban. Both shops have old and new world wines so Napa Valley connoisseurs and Franco-onephiles will both be happy. And of course there is famous Yamaya, a well-known purveyor of good wines at discount prices. Yamaya, with more than 150 stores has locations conveniently spread across Japan, but in Tokyo, the outlet near to the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku has an especially good selection on a regular basis.

These days, great wines and equally wonderful prices are just a click or short train ride away. Cheers!

Orca International, Hotei Wines, Tomei Wines, Costco Japan, National Azabu Tel. 03-3442-3186, Nissin World Delicatessen Tel. 03-3583-4586.