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[Herald Interview] ‘Social media will propel Korean wine market’

Berry Bros. & Rudd wine director says strength of Korean market ‘perfect’ for growth of wine business

The Korean wine market that has only recently been growing will develop and evolve rapidly through the informing effects of social media, said the wine director with a British wine and spirits merchant.

“In this market in particular, social media and blogging is everywhere. That is the most flexible, the most accessible. There will be somebody somewhere that is at the level you want to hear,” said Mark Pardoe of Berry Bros. & Rudd in an interview with The Korea Herald.

Berry Bros. & Rudd Wine Director Mark Pardoe poses with a bottle of Pauillac from The Wine Merchant’s range, launched in Korea through Homeplus. (Homeplus)
Berry Bros. & Rudd Wine Director Mark Pardoe poses with a bottle of Pauillac from The Wine Merchant’s range, launched in Korea through Homeplus. (Homeplus)

“I think that‘s why the market is going to change so fast, because of the extraordinary connectivity of the generation of people who are going to be moving into wine drinking.”

Berry Bros. & Rudd is a British fine wine and spirits merchant with over three centuries of history. Last week, it launched a set of twelve wines under the label The Wine Merchant’s together with hypermarket chain Homeplus, priced between 12,900 won ($12) and 49,900 won.

The emphasis is on providing inexpensive good wine, which is “harder to find,” according to Pardoe. 

According to Pardoe, the Korean wine market today is comparable to where the UK wine market was in the late 1980s. “The tastes are becoming more sophisticated. You‘ve gone beyond the first flush. People are looking for more sophistication,” he said. 

But at the same time, having wine distributed through major channels like grocery stores is essential for growth.

“The role of supermarkets like Homeplus is vital in this because it democratizes the availability of wine,” Pardoe said. “The first sign of a market that’s in evolution is the easy availability of the product. If wine starts to become more of an accepted part of the culture, the growth in terms of expectation starts to accelerate very quickly.”

The potential of the Korean market is partly why Berry Bros. & Rudd chose Korea as the first Asian country to launch The Wine Merchant‘s range.

“It was much more interesting for us to launch with a completely blank sheet of paper. We’re much more able to see the success and the traction of the range, if it‘s unadulterated,” said Pardoe. 

“It’s a market that‘s in fast transition, there’s a high level of interest in knowledge acquisition ... the whole strength of the Korean economy is perfect. The moons were aligned for it to be the right place.”

The Wine Merchant‘s range is built around well-known types of wine such as sauvignon blanc, but also includes new offerings such as English Sparkling Wine. 

Pardoe said that with the right choices, wine culture has plenty of room to grow to become a part of Korean cuisine culture, in addition to being paired with Western foods. 

“There will be some wines that are not quite so friendly. Very dry, very light white wines will be refreshing before a meal but not big enough. Very tannic reds will also not be good with the spice. But anything in between will go well with Korean cuisines,” he said. 

By Won Ho-jung (