BUSAN, South Korea — I am sometimes asked to suggest what are known as "old world" wines. I have found several that are now available in Korea and are all quite reasonably priced for the quality. Here are five in no particular order. Enjoy!
It’s hard to find a Denominazione di Origine Controllata wine (DOCG, which is indicated by the pink band ringed around the bottom of the neck) for less than 15,000 won anywhere. The DOCG label means the Italian government guarantees the wine has been made with a traditional blend and meets a premium quality standard. A light sour cherry, herbal and peppery-flavored sangiovese with mouth-watering acidity, it is complimentary to a wide variety of dishes and can be found on sale at Home Plus in Haeundae for 9,900 won.
2009 Jean Lapardieu, Cotes du Rhone, Esprit Saint-Sauveur Grande Reserve
From Southern France, it’s medium-bodied, rounder than the Chianti with its darker mix of red and black fruit with savory notes coalesced by a touch of oak. This blend of mostly grenache adds a sweet red fruit called syrah, known for adding ripe black fruit, notes of spice and tannins, while mourvèdre intensifies its color and structure. At 14,000 won in the Shinsegae basement wine shop, it’s a great value.
2007 Berberana, Viña Alardi Rioja Crianza
Rioja is often considered Spain’s most prestigious wine region which predates ancient Roman times and the predominant grape of this region, tempranillo. Berberana, one of the oldest Rioja producers, can be found here in the E-Mart/Fresh Market, also in the Shinsegae basement. With Rioja Crianzas required to age for two years prior to release with at least one year in oak, this wine with so much history and provenance most of their ilk sell for at least 30,000 won, yet this one sells for 12,000. A delicious bargain!
2001 Gran Fabrica, Cariñena Gran Reserva
Gran Fabrica is the winery and Cariñena is a large Northern Spain wine region in Aragon. This wine is labeled as a Gran Reserva due to being the top level of recognition in Spain; it is a wine made in a great year, aged for five years with two of those in wood prior to release. I found this blend of tempranillo, grenache and cabernet sauvignon recently at Home Plus in Haeundae. Regularly priced at 22,600 won, I was shocked to find an 11-year-old Cariñena Gran Reserva for 11,000 which had me thinking perhaps something had gone wrong; either the wine had been mislabeled or perhaps it has been stored improperly, hence the great deal. But, sure enough, no worries. Later that night, drank half of it discovering that cabernet added lovely, dusty herbaceous ripe plum and blackberry to the indigenous Spanish grapes. Also the aged oak prominently displayed its depths of vanilla and caramel then with air evolved into more cigar/tobacco flavors. The next day, I picked up an order of gamjatang and had found the perfect complement to the meat on bones cooked in a savory, spicy broth with anise and sesame leaves: day two of Cariñena Gran Reserva.
2009 Delas, Saint-Esprit Cotes-Du-Rhone
This one is pricier than all the others at 30,000 won due to it being a very special Cotes du Rhone from a single village. Though most Cotes du Rhones are grenache blends from grapes procured from a mix of 16 villages anywhere in the region, Delas Cotes du Rhone produces this wine from one of the top five villages, called Cairanne. It is a unique blend of 70% syrah and 20% grenache, replete with carignan and mourvèdre that chiefly tastes a medium-bodied profile with ripe black cherry, dark raspberry and earthy minerality, along with pepper and a faint touch of licorice. This is what I pour as a perfect complement to wash down any bite of bossam, dweji gui or ori gui. Also can be found at the basement Shinsegae wine shop.