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Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Korea, rugged, mountainous peninsula on the Asian mainland, between China and Japan, for long a producer of table grapes and of commercial wine since 1977 when the large beverages group, DooSan Baekwha, launched its Majuang label, which still accounts for the majority of domestic wine produced. The first wine was a substitute for imported sacramental wine for the Korean Catholic Church but its ultimate goal was to reach local consumers with an affordable alternative to costly imported table wines. Wine consumption in Korea has soared this century but the market is still almost entirely reliant on imports. DooSan’s early local rivals have mostly abandoned their wine ventures but recent entrants, notably Chateau Mani and Kenneth Kim Vineyards, have mounted a limited challenge. The tiny East of Eden Winery has attracted attention with its sweetish red wine made from the exotic wild Vitis amurensis mountain grape (literally sanmeoru). An increasing number of wineries are working principally with this variety because the extremely cold winters and rainy, humid summers are far from ideal for Vitis vinifera vines. Vineyards are scattered throughout the country and totalled 19,000 ha/47,000 acres in 2011 according to oiv figures. The limited proportion attached to commercial winemaking operations are either in the south east of the peninsula in the provinces of North and South Gyeongsang on sandy or stony sedimentary soils, and favoured by a milder maritime climate, or in the provinces of Gyeonggi and Chungcheong in the north west. The main varieties grown for the table are the hybrid Campbell Early, comprising two thirds of the total vineyard area, and Kyoho. Varieties grown specifically for wine are Riesling, Seibel, White Muscat (muscat blanc à petit grains), muscat bailey a, although Campbell Early is also used for wine. Some local labels, including Marjuang, rely on locally bottled imported bulk wine. To the credit of the producers and the regulatory authorities, this information is declared on the label—all in Korean, of course.