The Asian fine wine craze

Chateau Petrus labelThe FT’s rather silly How to Spend It magazine had a feature this weekend on the growing popularity of fine wine in the far east, particularly the top Bordeaux. The main picture accompanying the article was of a glamorous young woman sipping a glass of red, purportedly in a fashionable Seoul wine bar.

The article commented on the growing connoisseurship in Asia, with wine merchants being grilled

about the relative merits of Francois Jobard, Coche-Dury and Comtes Lafon. So there is a very high level of knowledge allied to massive spending power.

Other drinkers don’t bother with the research and go for the name. The wines you find right at the bottom of a restaurant’s list:

These people will limit themselves to drinking the well-known trophy wines, the 100-point Parker wines. I know someone whose everyday wine is Chateau Petrus.

Japanese wine-bot robo-sommelierThe article notes some recent research that suggests that Asians are better wine tasters than Caucasians, and that wine was much prized by China’s ruling dynasties for over a millennium up to the 14th Century. Top apartments in Shanghai now have wine fridges fitted as standard. And in Japan there are now more than 200 wineries and several thousand officially accredited sommeliers (and that’s excluding, according to the BBC, the new breed of robot sommeliers – pictured right).

The article doesn’t have all that much specifically on the market in Korea.

Even in South Korea, wine consumption has increased by more than 150 per cent in the past five years, with the result that Bordeaux’s prestigious Union des Grands Crus is putting on a tasting in Seoul for the first time in November.

I’m surprised Korea hasn’t shown stronger growth: judging by what you see in the movies no self-respecting gangster would be seen drinking anything apart from a decent claret; while red wine is the fashionable drink for the middle classes in such quiet melodramas as …ing. Maybe though the Korean market started from a higher base. I’d welcome any thoughts on this.

Meanwhile, the FT recommends the Shindong Wine Company for all your drinking requirements in Seoul. Note the Robert Parker scores prominently displayed, and the advert for the wine fridge on the front page.

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