Dokdo Winery – Korean wine?

Korean wine

During a recent visit of the Korean parliament in Seoul, I came across the above poster. The advertisement was not about soju, the popular rice wine, but a wine made from grapes.

I was puzzled. Do they grow wine grapes in Korea? When approaching the display, things became a bit clearer.

The award winners

As it turned out, the display was about the islands of Dokdo, which are claimed by Korea and Japan in a territorial dispute arousing nationalist feelings in both places. The display was a kind of political statement.

A winery in the Napa Valley in California was bearing the same name, Dokdo Winery or Dokdo Vineyards. This brand was created by a Korean-American dentist Ahn Jae-hyun living in the Napa Valley, California.

Established in 2007, the winery produces about 20,000 bottles a year. Dokdo wines had also won a gold medal at the 2012 Korea Wine Challenge.

The 2012 Korea Wine Challenge

According to the wineries website, the new product was introduced into the market to draw people away from the controversial debate over which country – Korea or Japan – owns the rocky islands.

“Instead of appreciating the beauty of Dokdo, the world has been too busy fighting over it. The island should not be fought over; it should be shared,” the website said.

Unfortunately, I had no chance to sample the wine.

True is also, that Korea is an emerging market as far as grape wine is concerned. With rising incomes, wine consumption is also rising. In fact every restaurant I visited during my brief stay offered a selection of various wines, often from France but also from other wine producing countries.


8 Responses to Dokdo Winery – Korean wine?

  1. Denis Gastin says:

    I agree with your assessment of the active and growing wine culture in Korea, Rainer. I think the KWC and Wine Review and Wine an’ City magazines that are behind the KWC have contributed enormously to this. I have been proud to have been judging at the KWC ever since it was first launched: 2012 was the 8th KWC.

    Regarding the Dokdo wine, at first I was thinking it might be Daebu Island, where there is a local Co-op doing surprisingly well with varieties like Campbell Early. But, on further research, it is clear that it is a US wine, with a provocative label to attract sales locally in Korea. There is no viticulture on Dokdo, in fact nothing much at all, virtually lifeless. And I haven’t heard of Ahn Jae-hyun.

    However, he is right that a wine with the Dokdo label (a Merlot) won Gold at KWC, where I have judged every year since it began. I checked the results list and it is declared as a USA wine, not a Korean wine.

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