With the New Zealand Wine Festival set to return to Busan on June 8th this year, we decided to catch up with the country’s ambassador to Korea, Philip Turner, to talk about the popularity of Kiwi wine on the peninsula as well as some of his favorites that he looks forward to enjoying at this year’s festival.
New Zealand wine has experienced strong growth since the Korea-New Zealand FTA came into force. Besides the FTA, what factors have led to the growth and popularity of New Zealand wine in Korea?
New Zealand wine, particularly white wine, is a great match with Korean cuisine. I think that Korean consumers are beginning to realize this more and more, which is leading to the growth in New Zealand wine sales in Korea. In addition to this, New Zealand wine is priced at the higher end of the market, given its superior quality, and I think a greater number of Korean consumers are looking to buy quality over quantity when purchasing alcohol.”
What is your impression of last year’s wine festivals in Seoul and Busan, which were your first? Why would you recommend these events to others?
These events are not only a way to experience the great wines that New Zealand has to offer, but are also a chance to experience famous New Zealand culture and hospitality in the beautiful settings of the Grand Hyatt Hotel Waterfall Garden in Seoul, and by the ocean at the Ananti Cove Resort in Busan.
What are your favorite wine varieties/vintages? What wine regions in New Zealand do they come from?
I always enjoy a good Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Noir, but recently I have been enjoying some less well known but delicious wines. New Zealand is a very young wine country – so young that we are still discovering new regions where grape varieties adapt extremely well to local soil and climate – what the French call the terroir.
New Zealand wine, particularly white wine, is a great match with Korean cuisine. I think that Korean consumers are beginning to realize this more and more, which is leading to the growth in New Zealand wine sales in Korea.
One such area is the Gimblett Gravels region near Napier in the Hawke’s Bay, on the east of the North Island. The area makes great strong red wines from grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – I recommend in particular the Merlot from the Craggy Range vineyard.
But my current favorite region is Waiheke Island near Auckland. Just 30 minutes’ ferry ride from the center of New Zealand’s largest city, this small island has a hot and dry micro-climate that makes great Bordeaux-style reds – unusual for New Zealand. The vineyards there are all small, like the island, so the wines are typically limited in production and seldom found in large supermarkets. I particularly enjoy the Man O’War Ironclad red wine – a splendid combination of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Merlot grapes. Enjoy!
What wine varieties/vintages would you recommend guests to try and why?
New Zealand’s most famous wine is the Sauvignon Blanc variety from the Marlborough region of the South Island. Marlborough’s micro-climate and fast-draining dry soil has proved to be a remarkable match for this grape, producing a uniquely crisp, fruity and delicious flavor.
On the red side, New Zealand is becoming increasingly well known for the Pinot Noir grapes. These grapes do well in slightly cooler climates, and remarkably vintages are now appearing in particular from the Central Otago region of the South Island, one of the southernmost wine regions in the world, and the Wairarapa region of the North Island.
For those who enjoy a good dessert wine with their New Zealand Pavlova, I recommend New Zealand’s ice wine, such as Lincoln Ice Wine, a rich and golden combination of Chenin blanc and chardonnay from the Gisborne region on the east coast of the North Island.
If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet for this year’s New Zealand Wine Festival, you can get them here.