Wine culture is growing in South Korea as drinkers gradually open up to the category

South Korea, in common with many other Asian countries, has a growing and developing wine market. Having said that, wine culture is still a relatively new concept in South Korea, and its status still reflects a lack of mainstream connection. According to Ms. Sunjoo Choi, South Korea’s Wine Intelligence country manager and wine educator, wine amongst South Koreans is often viewed as a luxury product and a symbol of wealth forming part of the sophisticated lifestyle. The high prices contribute to that positioning. The novelty of wine has meant that South Koreans often do not have confidence in their wine choices and, therefore, tend to stick to the general norm which in this market is either a French or Chilean red wine.

However, our newly-published South Korea Landscapes report also shows revealing signs indicating that South Koreans are slowly changing their conservative attitudes and views towards wine and becoming more experimental as their curiosity in the sector grows. Since 2012, there has been a significant rise in the number of South Korean imported wine drinkers who claim they enjoy trying new and different styles of grape-based wine on a regular basis. Moreover, imported wine drinkers are becoming increasingly aware of other wine-producing countries such as Spain and California. They are also accepting screw caps and synthetic corks where previously they would reject them as nontraditional. This change in attitude could be largely attributed to the younger generations, particularly 25 to 34 year olds, who are widening their drinking repertoire and gradually opting to try white wines, other types of sparkling wine and dessert wines. In general, all signs point towards consumer demand becoming more diversified in the South Korean wine market.

There has been a significant shift in the number of imported wine drinkers who consume wine in the on-trade over the past few years. Today, 64% (compared to 69% in 2014) of South Korean imported wine drinkers consume wine in the on-trade whilst mostly all of them buy wine in the off-trade. The main reason for this trend is that South Korean consumers are becoming more attuned to wine pricing and are becoming aware of the high mark-ups in the on-trade. A remnant of the economic crisis in the late 2000s, consumers are consistently seeking better prices and as can be seen in our report, more and more imported wine drinkers are motivated to buy wine if it is on a promotional offer. Moreover, they are beginning to compare the wine prices offered internationally to their local prices and are noticing a large gap.

Eventually, wine prices in South Korea are expected to stabilise especially if the predicted change to the complicated wine tax system changes. This will lead to further growth in the market and a step closer to an established wine drinking culture in South Korea.

Find out more in our South Korea Landscapes 2016 report, out now in the Wine Intelligence Reports Shop.

Author: Alexandra Scheybeler