Festival showcases premium wines

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Festival showcases premium wines

Guests attending the sixth annual New Zealand Wine Festival this Saturday can leave their party attire in the closet - this event calls for flip-flops.

Held in the poolside garden at the Grand Hyatt Seoul, the festival is organized by the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (NZCC). Festival-goers can sample more than 60 wines from 28 New Zealand wineries, including sauvignon blanc from the country’s Marlborough region. Cloudy Bay, Kim Crawford, Hunter’s and Sileni will be among the brands represented.

Sunny Myung, the event’s project manager, said she wanted visitors to experience drinking wine casually and added that many Koreans saw wine as an expensive luxury item, whereas in New Zealand, it was not reserved exclusively for consumption within restaurants and bars.

“People think wine is really expensive and really fancy; they see it as a luxury item,” Myung said. “But we want to show that it can be casual. You can enjoy it [while wearing flip-flops] with your friends at a picnic.”

Previously, New Zealand wine was relatively unknown, she said, and importers focused on red wine. But when white wine began to gain a foothold in the Korean market, consumers found that New Zealand’s sauvignon blancs and chardonnays complemented their popular seafood dishes.

NZCC board member Simon Walsh, who along with Myung is the co-director of Tiwi Trade, a food and beverage company, added that the festival was growing in popularity, having started in 2008 as an offshoot of a trade tour run by New Zealand Winegrowers, a trade organization.

But though it covered much of Asia, it excluded the public. “We’d do these industry events during the day, and we had all this wine left over in the evening,” he said.

Approximately 450 people attended the festival last year when it was held in Seoul, Walsh said, and 250 came to its equivalent in Busan.

He attributed the event’s popularity to the fact that consumers were able to come and taste the wines for themselves, rather than limiting it to sommeliers and industry buyers.

New Zealand wine only holds about 1 percent of the market in Korea and continues to be subjected to higher trade tariffs than some other countries, Walsh said.

However, he added that he looked forward to the conclusion of ongoing talks regarding a Korea-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement.

The New Zealand Wine Festival will run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. A prepaid ticket costs 90,000 won ($87.85), or 95,000 won at the door.

A barbecue-style buffet will be provided. More information can be found at www.kiwichamber.com, the NZCC’s website.

BY SARAH DUNN [sarahfdunn@gmail.com]
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