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By Junko Fujita
TOKYO (Reuters) - For those who have trouble finding space for a large wine collection, a new apartment block in Japan with an in-house cellar and a visiting sommelier could be the perfect place to live.
The aptly named Wine Apartment in Tokyo's posh Shibuya district features a temperature- and humidity-controlled room in the basement for 10,000 bottles. Each of the 18 units comes with a wine fridge for 26 bottles and a rack for glasses.
"Tokyo is a unique market for wine lovers," said Takayuki Suzuki, the president of property developer Inovv Inc.
"They do not just enjoy drinking wine but also have academic interest in wine. Wine schools are always busy here. That is why I am seeing potential for a property like this."
A popular bistro will open a branch in November on the first floor of the 10-storey building, where residents can bring and drink their own bottles for a 2,000-yen ($20.38) corkage charge. They can also order food to be delivered to their apartments.
About 70 percent of the units have been taken, Suzuki said. Monthly rents for the apartments of 42 to 46 square meters (452 to 495 square feet) run from 239,000 yen to 258,000 yen ($2,400 to $2,600), about 30 percent above the market price in the area.
Tenants pay a monthly storage charge of about 20,000 yen to put up to 300 bottles in the wine cellar and can pay extra for larger collections. A sommelier will visit the building on weekends to advise residents on how to pair food with wine and can be hired by the hour for parties.
One tenant, who owns a winery in New Zealand called Osawa Wines, plans to use the space as his office and a tasting room for customers.
Taizo Osawa, 62, started his winery after buying land in Hawkes Bay in 2005 and released his first vintage in 2008. He makes wine mainly from Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes.
"This venue should help us expand our sales network in Japan," Osawa said.
Inovv, which plans another Wine Apartment block with 30 units in 2015, has also built residential blocks with heavy sound insulation that musicians can use as studios and homes.
"I want to develop apartment buildings with a touch of playful spirit," said Suzuki.
Residents at Wine Apartment wanting to play with how they present their plonk can borrow glasses from a collection of 100 types displayed in the lobby.
Each has a different shape - some with Japanese Kutani porcelain in the stem - and a sommelier will help to choose the best glass for the type of grape, production area and vintage.
($1=98.1250 Japanese yen)
(Editing by John O'Callaghan and Clarence Fernandez)