No doubt, Orion beer is the drink of choice in Okinawa. And on a nice evening, it does hit the spot. But to be honest I enjoy (and possibly prefer) wine.
Wine is slowly gaining some popularity in Japan and Okinawa, but options are still pretty limited most of the time. Most grocery/food stores (such as SanA, Aeon, Ryubo, Big1, Direx, etc.) will carry some small amount of wine (usually not very good, but sometimes you get lucky), and there are a few liquor stores and wine shops around (though most seem to be in Naha). Here I will list some of the more notable places to check out (there are others that I have not visited or have not been particularly impressed with that are not on this list).
CENTRAL AREA: The Aeon Mall Rycom in Kitanakagusuku has a very good selection near the grocery store. Kaldi Coffee (located in most malls here) have a smaller, but still pretty good selection that often rotates varieties. The Plaza House Shopping Center in Kadena area has a store on the first floor with an acceptable selection as well. There is a small wine shop in American Village (cannot remember the name), but usually it is too inconvenient for me to visit that area. For me, the closest place is the Nishihara City SanA; they have recently added a small “fancy foods” section behind the bakery area which has a few new nice wines for reasonable prices (small selection though).
SOUTH AREA: Cote D’or has 4 shops located throughout Naha; they tend to have some pricier stuff, but definitely a nice place to check out when you are in the area. Another favorite for me is Smile Sake 酒のスマイル near the airport; they have a lot of different types of wine and alcohol. The Ryubo Department store has an extensive wine section in the Basement food floor. The other Ryubo grocery stores that have been remodeled into fancier stores also tend to have a pretty solid selection of wine (the ones I know of are located in Urasoe Barclay’s Court, Shintoshin, and Tomigusuku by the Ashibinaa Outlets).
The BEST time to get good wine (and often good deals) is during grocery/department store events! The Ryubo department store in Naha has an Italian fair once a year– with an extensive wine selection that you can sample before buying. We ended up with a “value box” of 6 various Italian wines for 10.000円 (~100USD), each of them very good. I am already looking forward to the next event. It is definitely key for any “wine lover” in Okinawa to keep their eyes out for these specialty events that are set up in Ryubo, SanA, and AEON stores!
If you want to take a gamble, check out “wine lotto” (usually held around New Years).
Some words to look for on Japanese wine labels:
ワイン “wain”: wine
赤 “aka”: red
白 “shiro”: white
甘口 “ama kuchi”: sweet
辛口 “kara kuchi”: dry
やや “yaya”: somewhat
Typically, the sweet to dry will look like this on wine labels:
extra sweet → very sweet → sweet → medium sweet → medium dry → dry → very dry → extra dry
-産 “san”: where the wine comes from **This will probably be in the language of origin on the bottle UNLESS it is covered up with a 日本語 label pasted over it!
南アフリカ South Africa