I am an avid wine drinker. I’m no wine snob, don’t get me wrong. I just love a good bottle of wine (preferably red). And when I mean a good bottle of wine, I mean anything that doesn’t taste like sweet grape juice or sour Kool-Aid (of which Korea offers both).
Wine has been slow to arrive on tables and bars in Asia, but every year, wine is making more inroads into these cultures.
At the large grocery chains in Korea like E-Mart and Lotte Mart, there is a wine and beer section, just like your supermarket back home. They carry varieties from most wine-producing regions, with France, South Africa, Australia and South America usually dominating the scene. You can easily buy a good bottle for W15,000 won (about $12) or less.
According to the USDA, who has been trying to support more exporting of American wine into Korea, libations are an important part of Korean social life, and as a result, Korea has one of the world’s highest consumption rates for alcoholic beverages.
Statistical data from Korea’s Liquor Industry Association indicated that, on average in 1999 (sorry for the ten-year-old stats) every Korean consumed 58.9 bottles of soju (Korean traditional hard liquor), 61.4 bottles of beer, and 1.28 bottles of whiskey.
Ten years ago, when wine was still a relatively new beverage in Korea, it comprised less than 0.5 percent of alcoholic beverage consumption. Consumers, retailers and many importers had limited knoweldge of wines. I can’t tell you how many times I went to a nice bar in Korea and was served chilled red wine. (argggg!)
But as wine continues to grow in popularity, more wines are available. There is even a Korean red table wine that I started buying at my neighborhood supermarket called Majuang that I can buy for about W9,000 (about $7).
Read more about wine in Korea at http://wine-in-korea.blogspot.com/.