Saturday, May 31, 2008

Salt and Vinegar Crisps

I don't think I have mentioned this before but you can get your Salt and Vinegar crisps here in the ROK now. Yes, the reasons for going home are diminishing........

Olympic Park, Jamsil there is a shopping area thingamy with a horseshoe shaped area. heh, that's not much use. It is just to the left of the Park itself if you are heading from outside Seoul into Seoul. Anyway, inside the building, if you pass through the horseshoe area there is a market of sorts with two shops selling imported goods. Both of them have Salt and Vinegar crisps.

EMart has opened and I have spent some money. Just tucking into the 12,000won LaRoche Viognier which is actually more aromatic than I remember. Not a bad thing. I have plenty more bottles to report on which should please my three readers no end. Thanks folks!

Back to England in a couple of weeks for a long weekend. Aye, fly out Friday back in Seoul Tuesday. A wreck in the making. On the plus side I might get to bring some booze back as I am travelling light.

This post is brought directly to you from spent too much money and so bored on a Saturday night productions.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Hyundai Department Store Sale

That right there is the new EMart opening in my town. I never thought I would be so excited by a superstore opening but this is different. They will have a dedicated wine area. In my town! I pity the only current wine shop here, who charge horrific prices and I have never seen anyone else in there and I also pity my bank account. My plan is, if the selection is up to it, to do a big old EMart tasting. Oh, and that artists representation there isn't based on reality. There is no green near by.

In other news, the wine shop in Hyundai at Coex have a great wine sale running until Sunday. They seem to have offers all the time but I saw some really good deals there currently running. You can pick up a La Vielle Ferme Cotes du Ventoux for 10,000, a wine I haven't tried for a few years but if memory serves is a good rustic style red. I will be picking some up myself.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Koreans Pay Among World's Highest Prices, Survey Shows

Link here.

"because Korean importers seek higher profit margins"

Yep. That about sums it up. Yes, we do pay a high level of tax here for wine but that is not the sole reason for the high prices we have to pay.

Importers will put at least a 15% mark-up on a bottle with supermarkets and hotels having to pay up to a 50% mark-up! With retailers then adding between 8 and 40% to the price it is not hard to see that when it comes to the point where we are handing our notes over we are paying hell of a lot more than the bottle is worth.

I appreciate the imperative to make money, I really do. However for the wine market here to really get going we have to be looking to getting everyday wines at everyday prices.

The Austrade body for promoting Australian wines abroad states quite clearly, "Korean consumers are price sensitive with an interest in things new and different." It is a great combination as you can sell value wines that are different, you can explore less fashionable wines you can push excellent Rieslings, or Austrian wines or any of the other good value wines out there and the consumer will embrace it. By doing this the Korean market can explode. Just one importer putting it on the line and trying to push by volume rather than price could see a huge change in wine consumption here.

Fingers crossed.

May Herald Article

Mays Herald article can be found here.

I'll cut and paste the original below as well.

I will say, the Expo was pretty good. If nothing else I had a good old drink and left there in pretty high spirits.

Also, it really was nice to go back to Sideway. The prices have gone up a touch but I suspect that isn't really their fault. Prices seem to be rising everywhere. Sitting on the terrace is worth it though I have to say. A really pleasant way to spend an evening.
For the record I had a Pouilly Fume which was a lovely subtle Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp and fresh with a touch of minerality it was very good.

Seoul Wine Expo 2008

As a member of the public, Wine Expos or shows are a great place to go and meet the people behind the wine we drink. Seoul Wine Expo was held over the weekend of the 10th of June and to all appearances it appeared to be a great success. This was not some small exhibition for connoisseurs and the wine trade to give themselves a smug mutual pat on the back, this was a full on publicity exercise with the objective being the continued growth of the wine industry on the peninsula. The Coex exhibition hall was decked out attractively with all the major players having pretty hefty presences and there was a sense that they were out to win new customers.

The crowd was encouragingly young and there was a noticeable dominance in numbers of women over men. Smartly dressed and clutching wine glasses as they moved from stall to stall it was apparent that they are the future for the wine market here. It is by marketing heavily to young women with disposable income that wine can start making inroads into the beer and soju markets. This means a move away from the big, heavy red wines that have their sights set on the Bordelaise and a move to lighter, fruitier, wines and dare I say it, white wine.

Most of the exporters I met, French, Italian, Australian and Argentinean all said the same thing, that breaking into the Korean market was difficult. With all the red tape and the culturally different business practices I got the impression that the previous few days of the Expo had been somewhat arduous for them. However, all expressed great hope in the growth of the Korean market and it seems that it is certainly no longer an after thought. It is expected that Korea will mature into a market much like Japan.

The heavy presence of Wine Australia, a body dedicated to promoting the virtues of Australian wines was a real indication of how seriously the potential is being taken and it was an Australian wine that for me, was the star of the show. Murray street vineyards is a small, boutique winery based in the Barossa region of Australia. They had a small stall fronted by a very friendly Marketing manager who was really excited to be in Korea. The first wine we tasted was a blend of Viognier and Marsanne and it is exactly the sort of wine that I see the new, wine savvy customers going for. Aromatic, soft and fruity it is a beautifully executed blend. The other wines were all red and based on Shiraz, Barossa valleys classic grape and all were equally successful. Murray Street Wines are apparently available in EMart but unfortunately not my local branch so I cannot advise on price.

Sideway Wine

Sideway wine in Gangnam( is something of an oenophiles oasis. It sits at the top of the hill behind Gangnam station and, unusually for many wine bars here, sits at street level with big windows letting in lots of light. And it is indeed a light, airy space with cream leather sofas and more traditional bar seating. Most important of all it has a terrace for enjoying those summer evenings. Admittedly the view of a wall is not great but the addition of a projector showing off some the world’s great vineyards is eye catching and a good way of brushing up on your wine geography. What makes it so appealing a place as a wine drinker is its small, focused wine list. There are not pages and pages of sub-standard wines to flick through just a good selection of well chosen wines broken down into country and region categories. It means you can order pretty much anything without fear of making a big mistake. The owner, Anthony, is knowledgeable, friendly and happy to help with your choice and, being a French man, is making sure the food offered is up to scratch and will complement whatever you are drinking. With a wine shop of sorts on site if you pick a cracker for your evening you can take one home and enjoy it at your leisure.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Seoul Wine Expo

It would be remiss of my not to mention the Seoul Wine Expo this weekend. It starts, er, today for the public and will cost 15,000won to get in where you will be given a free(?) glass. Then you can make your way around the stands drinking to your hearts content. Prepare some interesting questions and look a little more presentable than a bumbling alcoholic and my guess is you can get good value for money there.
I am going with the intention of getting some on the spot interviews for the Herald and myself. We will have to wait and see how this goes.
You can get limited information here.

My Google alerts threw up the information that Koreans drank more wine than whiskey for the first time ever last year. My take on this is it is a good sign at both ends of the market. I can see fine wines replacing Whiskeys in many boardrooms but more importantly more average Koreans drinking wine, in their homes and in the bars. I have become a bit obsessed with my weekly recycling seeing how many wine bottles are showing up. They are there and they are not all mine. Honest.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tell Me About It

A picture of an Appletini there. Not my hand.

Tell Me About It is in Apgujeong near Dosan Park. Somewhere off Rodeo Dr. Keep walking the streets that run parallel and you will find it.
Normally in Apgujeong we drink in Abbey Road as it has a good garden and the London Underground signs are always good to see. Abbey Road is a nice shambles of a bar. Tell Me About It is like a smart Continental bar. The bar is set up so with all the windows open you can sit at the bar and still be outside. Ace.
It has a sort of decadent railway station bar feel to it. Only better.
The bar staff are handsome, so I am told.
The clientele are beautiful. I include myself in that.
The music is that atypical Jazz house that manages to sit in the background not disturbing anyone.
The drinks were excellent. The wine list is pretty good and pretty expensive. No great shocks on there. A bottle of Champagne can be had for less than 80,000won. Krug was tempting at 240,000won. You should hear how I can try and rationalise a purchase like that. Thankfully I was not that idiotic.
The cocktail list is good and they grow their own herbs for the drinks. The Mojito was as good as I have had. Cosmopolitans received a muted reaction from the SO. The Appletini was a great success. I had a 10,000won bottle of Stella. I can 't really justify that even in my own head. Cocktails are all 15,000won which is pricey but is very easy to justify if you have lived in London. London prices make the rest of the worlds luxuries easy(er) to take.

It is a really nice place to sit and have a drink. Doing a bottle of something cold in on a summer day there would be great. You can watch the Apgujeongites walk by as you take a swig. Much more civilised than Rock and Roll Bar and similar beer prices.

Also, there was a table of three, two men one woman who caned a bottle of Jack Daniels in the time it took us to drink one drink and then proceeded to order another bottle. They looked completely together. Most impressive.

Oh, and if you get the Martini set you get free mashed potato. You really can't argue with that.

Can you?

7 Days Is Too Long

So a month is a disgrace no?

In my defence we had something of a health scare which, to a degree, is resolved. Also the Dr told me I had to drink less which, to a degree, I have followed. Exercise I am not doing so well with although I did go to play football this Sunday.
Unfortunately we hadn't registered to play in time and so instead the adjoshis(middle aged men) plied us with Makgeoli at 9.30 in the morning. I guess we can call it an exercise in endurance. The Dr also stuck me on a machine that told me I had to lose 2.5kg of fat. I am not entirely sure where I am meant to find it. Although I often invite people to 'kiss my fat arse' I reckon I barely have 0.5kg both buttocks combined. Anyway, I digress.

It is true, I have not had a huge amount of wine recently. I did get sent a Homeplus/Tesco update which had discounted wines however and so went and had a shufty. I am pretty much always disappointed when i look at Tescos range. I feel like they should be doing so much more to push wine and to expand the range of wines available and yet what they offer is generally very uninspiring. The white wine selection is pitiful the reds offer nothing very different to what can be had at EMart and I barely look at the fine wines because the basic wines aren't really enticing me with price.

So what did I get? A Chilean Sauvignon Blanc that came in at a stupid 4,000won. Plonk prices in Korea. Superb. Unfortunately it tasted like plonk too. A bit of Sauvignon Blanc characteristic but slightly oxidised and with far too many off flavours. If you were having a party and wanted to serve wine to get people wasted I guess you could do worse. 4,000won is cheap.

I also got a Hardys Shiraz. Again because it was cheap. I can't remember exactly how much but was less than 10,000. I think maybe 8,000. Maybe less. It is mass produced red wine from Australia. It's Ok. Slightly too sweet, a bit jammy, too much oak but doesn't taste like the ribena and vanilla juice travesty that is Yellow Tail. Serve this at a party and you will get no complaints.

The last wine is the one pictured above. A Tavel Rose produced by M. Chapoutier. This was about 32,000won. heh, I know. I scrape the barrel and then get silly. Seriously, the sun shine leads to some sort of short in my brain every year where I can convince myself I like rose and it is the perfect summer drink.
Chapoutier is one of the Rhones most respected producers and so I felt it was worth a punt on this. It was a pretty salmon pink with a strawberry/cherry nose. It's a dry wine with very little tannin and a simple cherry cranberry flavour. No complaints but not nearly as refreshing as a crisp white wine would be on a summer day. That being said, we took it down to the river outside our apartment and drank it sitting on the grass and it was a very pleasant way to spend Children's day.