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Wine imports hit record high as home drinking catches on

Wine defies doom and gloom in pandemic, while beer and whiskey imports plunge

Beverage manufacturer and wine importer Lotte Chilsung displays a bottle of wine from Barefoot Wine. (Lotte Chilsung)
Beverage manufacturer and wine importer Lotte Chilsung displays a bottle of wine from Barefoot Wine. (Lotte Chilsung)
Wine imports soared to a record high in Korea last year, apparently helped by more people drinking at home amid the pandemic, new government data revealed Monday.

South Korea imported 38,969 tons of wine worth $239.2 million from January to November in 2020, according to data from the Korea Customs Service.

Though data on the month of December has yet to be added, last year’s figure has already beat the previous record of $204 million for 2019.

Wine imports have grown over the years and more than doubled since 2011, when the figure stood at $112 million.

As wine sales during the last month of the year are traditionally boosted by Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the gap between 2019 and 2020 is expected to widen much further.

While wine sales enjoyed a jump, imported whiskey and beer, which are more reliant on bar sales, shrank in volume last year, according to the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation.

Between January and September in 2020, beer imports suffered a 20.4 percent year-on-year drop. Whiskey brand Golden Blue posted 54.8 billion won in sales during the first half of last year, down 66.4 percent from the same time a year ago.

When broken down by country, Chile exported the most red wine to South Korea, followed by France, the US, Italy and Spain.

France was the biggest white wine exporter to South Korea last year, followed by Italy, Chile, the US and New Zealand.

Last month, HiteJinro posted an annual sales growth of 11.2 percent for wine, an over 300 percent jump since 2015.

Convenience store chain Emart24 also revealed that over 1.5 million bottles of wine were sold in 2020 – equating to more than 170 bottles a hour.

The sales figure was up 176.3 percent year-on-year, while the store saw a 317 percent increase during the first two weeks of December.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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