soju sunrise

Buying wine in Korea

food and drink shopping | January 28, 2014 | By

Korea is not fertile soil for a wine lover with shallow pockets. The double whammy of distance and taxes make even the cheapest of plonk into a relatively expensive proposition, and paying for decent quality will cost you.

"17,000 for Kangaroo Ridge?"

“17,000 for Kangaroo Ridge?”

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that wine has historically been seen as a premium product here, and a large part of wine’s appeal to Korean consumers lies in its status as a luxury good, so there has been little incentive for retailers to cut prices in the way they do in the US or UK.

All that said, things are definitely changing. Korean supermarkets, in particular, are beginning to expand their ranges of wines (and beers) significantly compared to even a couple of years ago, and even the availability of decent white wines – which used to be utterly appalling, unless you enjoyed shitty Italian moscato with more sugar in it than alcohol – is improving in leaps and bounds.

It would be stretching things to say that there are bargains available; if you Google that bottle of Californian red you just bought in Homeplus, you may just cry when you see how much it costs back home. There are occasional surprises to be found, though. But, broadly speaking, if you were a wine drinker back home and you want to continue the habit in Korea, you have to choose; either you splash out twice as much for that weekly bottle of Cabernet than you would ever have done in your previous life, or – well, soju is nice and cheap, isn’t it?

I don’t have especially deep pockets, but one of my resolutions for 2014 was to stop buying crappy wine for 12,000 won a bottle and then bitching when it turned out to taste like grape juice that had been strained through a kangaroo’s arsehole. That sometime means paying 20,000 or 30,000 a pop, and it’s not much fun when you shell out that much for a wine which is disappointing.

So on this blog I plan to share some of the better glasses I’ve enjoyed, along with details of prices and locations, so that the next time you go into E-Mart you don’t come back with something that’s fit only for the cat. Not that I would give wine to a cat. Except maybe moscato.


  1. Leave a Reply

    January 31, 2014

    About twice a year, all the department stores have major wine sales to clear their inventory. If you buy enough bottles, they will also deliver the wine (wrapped & boxed) to your house. Imho the best way to go is to stock up during these sales.

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