Seoul bars prove that going natural is all the rage
In general, natural wines tend to have more acidic and fruity flavors, which many first-time drinkers say taste like non-alcoholic juice.
While murky and cloudy wine are known as faults in wines generally, these colors are acceptable when it comes to natural wine. Since most natural wines don’t go through a filtering process, there can be some residue found in the bottom of the bottle.
Since there is no definition of natural wine set by any widely known associations or laws in any wine-making countries, some bars also have organic and biodynamic wines, which are made following specific regulations.
Organic wines are made with grapes organically grown, but the winemaking process may not be chemical-free, while biodynamic methods require that winemakers follow the lunar calendar to decide when to spread fertilizers or when to harvest.
The following are some of the most popular wine bars serving natural-style wines in Seoul.
Located on the first floor of Piknic, a gallery on Mount Namsan, central Seoul, just steps away from the Millennium Hilton Seoul, the space is a cafe during the day and serves wine at night.
The bar is run by Zero Complex, a Michelin-starred restaurant located in the same building, which also offers natural wine with its food.
The bar has a handful of choices for “by the glass” orders for those who want to try out different flavors at once. Prices vary from 12,000 to 20,000 won ($10.63 to $17.72), depending on which wine is available on a given night.
French sommelier Clement Thomassin of Zero Complex is often seen at the bar and is available to explain more about natural wines and serve.
The bar is known for its many chandeliers lined up above a series of tables that are all put together to create one large communal table, and some guests are seated facing strangers.
The table allows for guests to make new friends and share their wines together.
The bar does not take reservations.
30 Toegye-ro 6ga-gil, Jung District
Calling itself a gastro pub, the restaurant only offers natural wines as its choice of alcohol. Opened last year, the restaurant and bar is located in Yeonnam-dong in western Seoul’s Mapo District.
There are bar seats for single diners and drinkers as well as tables for those who want more private time with their friends. The restaurant is manned by chef Shim Ju-seok alone without any service staff.
Many of the bottles that have been consumed inside the bar are used as decoration items throughout the space. Some are displayed on the walls behind the bar, while others are on the floor. Bottles that are displayed on the right side of the wine wall are chef Shim’s favorites.
Alongside the bottles, the restaurant also offers glasses of wine as well, usually one white wine and one red wine.
Taking a look around the restaurant reveals walls painted by chef Shim himself with the buckets of paint he has on the shelves alongside the bottles of wine. He also changes the paints he puts on the wall from time to time to change the overall ambience of the restaurant.
8 Donggyo-ro 34-gil, Mapo District
This is one of the newest additions to Seoul’s natural wine bar scene. The bar’s name “slok” is a Dutch word meaning gulping down drinks, according to the bar in Itaewon, central Seoul’s Yongsan Distrcit.
Here, one may not need to ask the owners which wine to choose, as explanations about the wines are written on the menu. The tone of the written statements is casual, like text messages one gets from their friends when asking about natural wine. The owner finds references from different sources, using good friends Anne and Diana from “Anne of Green Gables” to explain how some wines are blended with different grapes to find good balance.
A testament to natural wine’s growing popularity among Seoulites, the bar often has people lining up outside the door waiting for a seat. Since it takes reservations, it is recommended to plan a visit in advance to avoid waiting.
The food menu offers light dishes, including pickles to match with wines with a high acidity while others, like tofu, go well with more selections of wine.
3-3 Noksapyeong-daero 40-ga-gil,
This restaurant, opened last year in southern Seoul’s Gangnam District, is the latest addition to the Cucciolo Group’s restaurants in Seoul.
Different from its other restaurants across Seoul including Volpino, Cucciolo and Maremma, this restaurant has gone full force with serving natural-style wine.
However, novice drinkers don’t need to worry about which wine to choose from a long list of wines, as sommelier Kang Hyeon-gyu, better known as Fabio, is happy to step in and explain different styles of wines to visitors. Kang is one of the sommeliers in Korea who specialize in natural wine, and he counts himself as a big fan. He is known as one of the first industry experts to keep up with the changing trend and style in the world of natural wine.
The restaurant, like its name, is known for its outdoor terrace area inside the tall building.
The inside is decorated to look like what one may be able to find in an Italian home to create a more authentic Italian restaurant ambience. The center of the restaurant has a bar with other drink and cocktail choices for those looking for something different.
33 Seolleung-ro 152-gil, Gangnam District
Tuk Tuk Noodle Thai
The popular Thai food restaurant in Yeonnam-dong, western Seoul’s Mapo District, recently started to offer a wide variety of natural wines.
Breaking the prejudice that food with strong spices do not go well with wine, the restaurant chooses wines that embrace strong flavors from the food and create a balance.
Kim Eun-ji, former employee of local wine importer Cave de Vin, has joined the restaurant and is trying to match the wide variety of Thai dishes with many different wines.
Kim, upon request, will explain the details of the wines she has prepared for guests at the restaurant, such as how certain flavors in wine work better with which dish, and offer different ones depending on guests’ previous natural wine experiences.
Aside from sparking, white and rose options, the restaurant has a new section called “chilled red wine.” The restaurant believes some red wines go better with its food when they are colder.
The two-story standalone restaurant has proved that the right choice can make a spicy dish much nicer than anyone expects it to be.
161-8 Seongmisan-ro, Mapo District
This bar inside the newly-opened L’Escape Hotel by Shinsegae Chosun Hotel in Jung District, central Seoul, is located on the 26th floor, right next to the hotel’s Western-style restaurant L’Amant Secret, where many of the natural wines are served. Customers to the bar can also use the wine list from the restaurant to order bottles.
Within walking distance from Bar Piknic in Mount Namsan, the central Seoul area has become the district to visit to try out natural wines these days.
Many of the wine experts visiting the hotel’s bar and restaurants have said that the price of the wines here are more competitive than other wine bars in Seoul and attract many wine drinkers to this cocktail bar, which is headed by world-famous bartender Simone Caporale and others. There are many different options to choose from, starting from bottles priced under 100,000 won.
There is no cover charge to enter the bar.
All guests get a welcome drink when they are seated. Reservations are recommended to avoid a long wait as the newly-opened hotel has been attracting many curious diners.
Toegye-ro 67, Jung District
BY LEE SUN-MIN [email@example.com]