There are seven continents. Living in the United States, my husband and I have of course had tons of wine from our own continent of North America. Although sadly we’ve been to no wineries in South America, we’ve had plenty of wines from Argentina and Chile. South America, check. We’ve visited countless wineries and in France, Italy, and Switzerland (yes Switzerland has great wine like its more famous neighbors), so we more than have Europe covered. Australia has fantastic wine, and I’ve been fortunate enough to taste in the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, among other places in Australia. Africa is pretty good too – my husband and I have been wine tasting in South Africa (with some pretty extraordinary wines), and we’ve even had some local Moroccan wines while visiting Marrakesh.
So, drinking wines from five of the seven continents is no issue. Heck, the largest wine store in Denver, Colorado has plenty of wine from each of these five continents. But what about the last continent of wine?
To be clear, this blog is not about the wines of Antarctica. There are virtually no plants in Antarctica (I know, I’ve been to the warmest part of Antarctica, the Antarctica peninsula, and trust me, there’s no green, let alone vines, anywhere).
The last continent of wine (for us) was the great continent of Asia.
Here’s the crazy thing, although we’ve heard all sorts of great things about Asian wines, we’ve never actually had one. While we’ve always wanted to visit some of the wine regions of China, especially the Shangdong Peninsula, we haven’t yet been there yet.
Finding a bottle
Needless to say, when we were in South Korea (staying in Gangnam, Seoul) in late 2019, we desperately wanted to try some local wine. Unfortunately, the wine bars and wine stores we went to in Gangnam didn’t sell local wines. (Just for the record, we never heard any bar or restaurant in Gangnam play Gangnam Style, either.) After a wonderful week of bi bim bap and soju, we were more curious than ever to try Korean wine. But it seemed as if it was nowhere to be found. Then, in the Incheon International Airport about to leave South Korea, the duty-free store had South Korean wine!
We bought a bottle, with the label completely in Korean. And, we were excited to try it when we got back to the States. Then, darn COVID-19 derailed many blog ideas, including tasting this Korean wine for the blog. So, we never got around to opening our first bottle of South Korean wine for quite some time. But heck, it’s time to open up the bottle and give it a taste.
So, we unscrewed the bottle. (And all you wine-snobby Americans and Europeans, don’t judge a wine bottle for lacking a cork. One night of drinking incredible Australian wines with twist-oft caps will forever dissuade you from your cork bias).
Going through the proper tasting protocol, after looking at the color and clarity, we next stuck our noses into the glass. The nose was light and floral, almost like some of the wine was not vitis vinifera (the species of grape that makes wine).
Puzzled by the nose, we then tasted it. It was overwhelmingly sweet. Like a fruit wine. The wine was well constructed, with a nice taste, but yet overwhelmingly sweet. We could definitely drink a glass of this wine, but we also could not drink a bottle. We were stumped by the bizarrely sweet and seemingly non-vitis vinifera, yet well-constructed, wine. What was it? My husband took a photo of the bottle label, entirely in Korean, and texted it to one of his closest law school buddies. His friend, after graduating, had moved to Seoul and worked for many years as an in-house attorney in Seoul before eventually returning to the United States. What was the answer from a friend who could read the label? We had bought and were drinking blueberry wine.
So, have we drank wine from the last continent of wine? We’re not sure we can say we have or have not. Regardless, we can’t wait to return to Asia and start trying the vitis vinifera wines from the continent. Can we really claim we know that much of the wines of the world if our total wine consumption from the largest continent on earth has been a half a bottle of fruit wine?
Part two of this blog, when we return to Asia, will have to wait a bit longer. But we can’t wait until we have our next bottle.