Larkmi Jung is the Head Sommelier and General Manager at Evett, a Michelin star restaurant in Seoul. We caught up with her ahead of our launch in Seoul.
Where are you from and what is your background in wine?
”I live in Seoul and have only studied wine in Korea. Except for a few winery tours and business trips, I have mostly studied with the help of wine books, the Internet, Google maps and industry colleagues.”
What do you think about the wine scene in Seoul?
”There are sommeliers with considerable skills who stand out. Their restaurants are firmly established and leading the wine market. But it is also true that the wine scene is changing and has many options.”
Which are the trends in wine in South Korea and Seoul?
”There have been many changes in the last three years. The trend of natural wine stands out. Also small-scale distinctive wine bars, bistro and restaurants are created.”
How has the coronavirus situation affect your restaurant - and the wine scene in Seoul? Have people been going out less?
”Surely the coronavirus has reduced the number of visitors. My restaurant should have closed in March. However, everyone is really careful in this crisis and try to keep on with their daily lives, and my restaurant is also getting through it, too. I know that more people buy wine at the market and enjoy it at home. However, it is also true that they still enjoy drinking wine in wine bars, restaurants, and they want to hang out with their loved ones.”
Which are your favourite wine places when you go out yourself?
”To tell you the truth, I haven't had time to go out and drink lately because I've been focusing only on my work. But if there's a place where I can go and drink wine, it's a wine bar VIN 114, run by my senior colleague Chengdam-dong. There is also a Speakeasy bar that also sells wines called The Boxing tiger. It has a classic and compact wine list and good single malt whisky in Sinsa-dong.”
What do you think are the strengths of Seoul when it comes to wine?
”I think the advantage is that there are people who are sensitive to trends, enjoy changes, and are open to various wines. And that it is a place that requires constant effort to meet these needs.”
Are there wines or styles you would like to see more of?
I can already experience all most kinds of wine in Korea, but the price is too high. So I can't drink old vintages or really delicious Pinot Noir!!!”
Which are the best wine pairings with Korean food?
”I don't think it's a simple answer because there are not only Korean BBQ, Bulgogi, and Bibimbap in Korea. Seasonality and regional colours are strong, the ingredients are very diverse and the taste varies significantly depending on who made them. But in general, natural wine goes well with Korean food, which uses a lot of salted seafood, spices, and fermented foods. German Riesling and sherry go well too.”
How do you think the wine scene in Seoul will evolve in the coming years?
”Natural wine will still be loved and people will continue to find information on the Internet to find wines that meet their needs. Wine bars and restaurants will struggle harder to get new wines and wines of good value. A variety of lower-priced wines will probably dominate the wine market.”