Making mark with vintages made at home

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Making mark with vintages made at home

Yoon Kwon-sang is a professor of life sciences at Kangwon University and a renowned scholar of bacterial studies. And he makes his own wine.

Mr. Yoon, 61, is such a wine enthusiast that he created a wine lovers club three years ago to promote homemade wines. "We're not a club that meets to critique expensive, high quality wines sold in the market," he explained. "We brew our own wines and exchange them, and trade recipes as well." Mr. Yoon proudly displayed one of his products, a bottle of red tightly sealed with a cork. The label read "K.S. Yoon."

It was winter 1978 when Mr. Yoon first hit on the idea of making wine at home. He was studying for his doctorate at the University of Minnesota -- one day he stopped to help a man whose car had broken down. As a thank-you gift, the man gave Mr. Yoon a bottle of homemade wine, which ignited his interest in making wine at home.

At first, he set up a fermenting process by using a large washbasin and preserving wine in 7-Up bottles. Through a great deal of trial and error, he's been making his own wine ever since. He says his wines are on par with any you find in the market. He has made all sorts of wines, using strawberries, peaches and mulberries as well as grapes. His best wines are champagnes made from mixing yeast with white wine; he also makes soda drinks by mixing fruit juice and yeast.

This is not just a minor hobby for the professor; he takes it very seriously. "I make around 300 to 500 bottles of wine a year," Mr. Yoon said. The veranda of his apartment is full of 20-liter water bottles, all containing fermenting wine. And in every corner of his house are his wines. His wife, Lee Geum-jae, doesn't mind the sour and pungent yeast smells charging the air of her living room. "My friends envy me when I give out wine and tell them my husband made it," she said.

Mr. Yoon set up his homemade wine lovers club in March 1999. The group, which can be contacted at or (02) 3410-9000, consists of about 60 people from varied backgrounds, including other professors, herbalists, housewives, farmers, a retired admiral, doctors and literary men. They meet regularly to sample each other's homemade wines. The only rules are that you're out if you cause a drunken ruckus or drive drunk.

Mr. Yoon's dream is to start a basement winery somewhere, and to make local wines more popular. "It is only fitting that we favor wine made from grapes grown on our land," he said.

by Koo Hui-lyung

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