In Part 2 of our food and wine podcast with Jeannie Cho Lee of Asian Palate and Joe McPherson of ZenKimchi, we focus on wine trends in Asia, and how fine dining establishments in the region are always on the lookout for the ever-changing tastes of customers.
AsianTalks: Let’s shift our focus to the topic of wine as it relates to food and dining. Joe, are there any innovative uses of Western wines in Korea right now?
Joe: Honestly, not really. And even a past trend of marinating grilled pork belly (samgyeopsal) in wine was something I only saw in tourist areas. For awhile wine in Korea was considered a very bourgeois thing. You saw people swirling glasses in TV shows, but it still hadn’t caught on yet as something you enjoy with food. But there is a strong movement by some people here to bring that more into public consciousness.
AsianTalks: Jeannie, what’s a hot wine trend you can think of right now, especially in mainland China?
Jeannie: In the last year there’s been a movement and interest away from Bordeaux. And I spoke to a lot of sommeliers working at the five-star hotels and fine dining restaurants in Beijing, and it sounds like their customers are now experimenting with Spanish and Italian reds.
And also among the small percentage of wine lovers who really appreciate wines, they’re also now leaning more towards Burgundy.
AsianTalks: And Jeannie, what do you think has caused this countertrend away from Bordeaux?
Jeannie: The movement away from Bordeaux has been triggered by very high prices. It’s a healthy movement that people are going beyond what they feel safe and comfortable with.
AsianTalks: Joe, do you have any comments on wine trends in Korea?
Joe: Yes. Speaking of Spanish wines I’ve been hearing they have been really picking up lately, as far as the wine market goes in Seoul and Korea in general. I’m hearing it’s a combination of the EU-FTA, plus Spanish wines are cheaper now. They’re more affordable, because by the time wines hit Korea, a simple $3 wine suddenly becomes $40. So Spanish wines are becoming more plentiful and accessible. And people are getting really interested.
Up next: How do our interviewees, long-term residents of Hong Kong and Seoul, experience the United States when they visit after a lengthy period of absence? Reverse culture shock, Jeannie’s account of her experience with Korean food, and Joe’s love of Japanese ramen will all be in Part 3 of AsianTalks podcast on food!