Korean wine tasting experience: what’s new on the market?

Today, after having entertained you last week with the nice, as well as tragic, story of Jack-O-Lantern and his constant wandering, we advise you to hang up the pumpkins (or make us a nice soup) and return to the real world who is preparing for another holiday of the Anglo-Saxon world: Thanksgiving Day.
But, before talking about Thanksgiving, turkey and the history of this holiday, we will keep you warm again with wine, the undisputed star of dinners, aperitifs and, why not, even "after dinner".
Some time ago we told you how China is making its way in the production of white and red wines and how wine consumption is gradually increasing. But what is happening in other Asian markets instead? We asked our Korean Country Manager to tell us a little about the trend and how Koreans, especially the younger ones, are slowly entering the world of wine tasting, naturally and exponentially increasing the sale of the glass suitable for winr tasting. We will talk about how Zafferano, and in this case, Ultralight is making its way among some big names in wine tasting such as Zalto and Riedel.

Zafferano Ultralight: the wine glass experience


Hi Eunjoo, first of all, let’s talk about wine market in South Korea. Is it growing so fast as we can imagine?

Yes, Wine market in Korea has been increasingly growing except for the period of global financial crisis around end of 2000s. Before the crisis, the market was driven by the high class society but, since then and until now, the market growth has been driven by ordinary middle class and young consumers buying wines from supermarkets and convenience stores.

What kind of wine do you usually like? Where are they from?

We mostly import wines from abroad, led by France, Italy, Chile, Spain, US. In terms of popularity of wine types, red comes first absolutely in leading position still accounting for +70%, followed by Sparkling wines (15-20%) and white wines (5-10%). Although we have a very strong local alcohol market with such as soju, beer and makgeolly (rice wine) very popular in public.

What about glassware? How is the market in general?

Actually, glassware market in Korea can be divided by two segments – either top branded expensive glasses and Chinese/Thai cheap ones. It seems there are no middle level demands existing and selling significant. The same applies to wine glasses. In general, the conception of glasses for Koreans is something given for free when you buy alcohols [editor’s note: in the past, you were gifted with wine glasses when buying wines]. In Korea, we don’t have local wine glass producers thus all imported. Traditionally German (or nearby) glasses led by Riedel, Schott Zwiesel has been strong in high-end segment and retail market. Currently Zalto has appeared as a new rising super star especially for professionals, celebrities and wine lovers. Usually, If Koreans are willing to spend money for glasses, it has to be a top branded item. In that sense, wealthy and conservative older people prefer Riedel, Schott Zwiesel and Zalto. Since then, there has been a noticeable attention on Ultra Light wine glasses as a new trend. Good timing and opportunity for Zafferano-Ultra Light.

Wine tasting in Korea with our director, Vincenzo Dubla


We are very interested in Horeca market where the german brand still leads the market. Is it correct?

Yes, In horeca, Schott Zwiesel leads the market for high-end sectors whereas Ocean as a brand or Chinese prevails in standard sectors.

Are Koreans careful about matching wines and glasses?

In terms of shape, because of Korean’s dominant preference in red wines, the majority still prefer classic shapes of red wine glasses to keep at home or serve customers. More progressive and trendy shapes are often preferred by professionals and wine lovers. Recently we saw also a very noticeable trend and growing demand in buying larger capacity glasses like over 600ml even 800ml by both segments. In the past, 400ml or max 500ml sized wine glasses were popular as ‘universal uses’ for red and white. Currently the market started to introduce a variety including stemless wine glasses as well.

Wine tasting in Korea with our director, Vincenzo Dubla


We talked about red and white but, what can you tell us about sparkling wines? We noticed, in Italy also, that many people are starting to drink Champagne and Prosecco as dinner wines.

Over the last decade, sparkling wine has been growing significantly, driven especially by women. However, the sales of champagne & sparkling wine glasses are yet relatively smaller and insignificant and not growing as much as it should be. The majority of Koreans do not recognize the importance of wine glasses for tasting wines thus less appreciating. Unless you are wine lovers, most Koreans choose soju and beer for drinking at home rather than wines. I have to admit that, conventionally, we hardly invite guests or friends at home for casual occasions; that’s why wine glasses are sold in a package of 2 for a couple in retail sector or even in single package.

We thank and say goodbye to Eunjoo promising, as soon the virus is an old memory, we will go to Seoul to visit her. That will be the right occasion to try the Korean wine tasting experience!

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