Winemakers join minister to sell France in Korea

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Winemakers join minister to sell France in Korea


It must be tough being a French minister of commerce visiting Korea. Christine Lagarde, who is in charge of foreign trade, told a roomful of Korean journalists she felt “miserable” at not having improved the attractiveness of her country 40 minutes into a press conference Friday at the Sheraton Walkerhill hotel in eastern Seoul. While questions posed by Korean journalists focused mostly on France’s role in the World Trade Organization and negative images stemming from the country’s riots, the poised, silver-haired French minister, in a lean black-and-white pinstripe pantsuit, emphasized France’s confidence and strong interest in aerodynamics and advanced technologies, and encouraged bilateral trade between France and Korea. She said the image of Korea could be improved by forming partnerships with French companies and authorities.
With business in mind, Ms. Lagarde told the crowd in fluent English that she traveled to Korea with an entourage of 50 businessmen representing French companies. Among them were four winemakers, a vinegar and mustard company called Covinor and a luxury shoe brand, Robert Clegerie. The minister’s connection with Korean fashion started at Salon de Pret-a-Porter last fall where she found many Korean fashion designers to be very impressive.
Later Friday, four winemakers from the Bordeaux and Rhone regions served their products to local wine importers and enthusiasts at an informal winetasting event at Chateau 21, a wine bar in southern Seoul.
Emmanuel Vigier, the export manager of Bordeaux Tradition, said he was in Korea too early in 1998 and left shortly after disappointed because the rest of Asia, from Japan to Taiwan, was enjoying the height of a wine boom. Now that the Korean wine market has finally caught up, there has been a rush of winemakers who are determined to make it here as well. Mr. Vigier, who has already been selling his wine as far abroad as India and Vietnam, said he is ready for Korea and is looking to sell affordable and casual wine, such as the 2004 Bellevie, to the younger clientele here.
Pouring the 2000 Chateau St. Pierre Pomerol, a dark ruby wine with complexity and depth, Stanislas Boissarie, one of the family members who own Horeau-Beylot, says the label enjoys prestige, a large variety of wines and a large sales volume of millions of bottles per year.
Maryse Lepage, the wine grower for Chateau le Cone, brought just one wine, with which she said she is determined to conquer the globe, adding that Chateau le Cone was mentioned as a “Cru Bourgeois” in the 1868 edition of the “Cocks and Feret” guide, which is considered “the bible of Bordeaux wines.”
To accommodate the increasingly mature market in Korea, Bertrand Bonnet of Gabriel Meffre, makers of a rare, premium Rhone wine, said the company wants to reach wine lovers here. The 2003 La Chasse du Pape made with 100 percent syrah has won rave reviews from wine critics. Gabriel Meffre was founded in 1936, and of its total sales of 26 million bottles per year, more than 80 percent is exported to the U.S. and Japan.

by Ines Cho
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