If you’ve been around the peninsula for any amount of time you know: wine is taking off in Korea. According to Forbes just last February, even in the world’s top wine producing countries such as France and Italy, “Less wine is being drunk ‘at home’, in the country where it is produced as well as in the traditional wine producing countries. More and more wine is finding new markets with new wine drinkers abroad.”
Which brings us to New Zealand and Korea.
New Zealand has now moved up to seventeen in world wine production by country and at the same time charts seven of Drinks International journal’s “world’s most admired wine brands.” Furthermore, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine reported that outside of the top ten biggest wine producers, New Zealand has had a record level of production in 2014, too.
On the domestic front here in the ROK, impressive numbers on the growth rate in the Korean wine market bear this out. Following an initial boom from 1999 to 2005 of 238 percent, recent research projects that by this year, Korean wine consumption will have reached 83 percent of the market, giving the peninsula one of the largest increases across the globe.
One of the countries making a big push into the South Korean market is New Zealand, which traces its wine lineage back to 1851, when the country’s oldest existing vineyard was established by French Roman Catholic missionaries at Mission Estate in Hawkes Bay, a wine producing region that has since become company to a total of 10 regions producing wine in the island nation.
Even more recently the Wine Institute reported that in Korea, per capita wine consumption jumped by over 22% from 2009-2012. And continuing with that trend, the U.S. Department of Agriculture highlighted “Korea’s wine imports in the first half of 2013 totaled $85.2 million, up 25.9 percent from the same period previous year.”
Though the Kiwis are noted by many critics as producing the world’s best sauvignon blanc, they produce a full range of wines including world class pinot noir, chardonnay, and riesling. The number of wineries increased from 238 in 1996 to 698 in 2013, making New Zealand one of the fastest growing wine industries in the world.
If you remember the dark days of five years ago when for beer all we had in the ROK was Hite, Cass, or OB and the wine was Mujuang or Yellow Tail, there’s empirical evidence abound of the Kiwis’ big splash here in Busan. While there used to just be the stalwarts of the big three of Cloudy Bay, Kim Crawford, and Babich from Marlborough (rightfully so for putting New Zealand’s South Island on the map), perusing the wine shelves at Shinsegae and EMart we now see at least a dozen Kiwi wines to choose from, from Hawkes Bay to Martinborough on the North Island, to Marlborough to Central Otago (the world’s most southerly appellation).In an effort to expand the country’s reach not only into the booming Korean market, but to the whole of Asia, the Kiwi Chamber of Commerce has been helping forge inroads into the highly lucrative and largely untapped markets of Asia.
This month, to help promote and educate the public on New Zealand wine, the chamber will host its festival at the Park Hyatt in Busan on June 13th. This will be the third annual wine event in Busan, where the market is growing faster than in much of the rest of the country.
The mission of the Kiwi Chamber is to continuously assist in promoting its nation’s industries. Naturally New Zealand’s vast array of vintage wines provides an excellent vehicle to achieve a large portion of that goal. The aim is to share these fine wines with both the Korean and expat public, and increase the positive perception of all that New Zealand has to offer.
Haps wine critic Anthony Velasquez views Kiwi wines as a perfect fit for Korea’s expanding interest and sees Korean consumers saddling up to what much of the wine world already knows about the reputation of Kiwi wines.
With its diversity of microclimates, terroirs and grape varieties, yet consistent production of high-quality wines, New Zealand has garnered what Velasquez calls, “a cultish following from oenophiles around the world.” It’s likely to happen here as well.