Nathan Kim: "Seoul boasts a diverse wine scene"

Andreas Grube
Published 18-October-2023
Interview / South Korea

Today we are proud to welcome sommelier Nathan Kim to the Star Wine List team. He now takes on the role of ambassador for Seoul, South Korea.

"I'm thrilled to join the Star Wine List team as an ambassador. I'm looking forward to working closely with the team to elevate the wine experience for enthusiasts and professionals alike, and I'm most excited about the chance to engage with the global wine professionals and exchange ideas," says Nathan.

Currently, Nathan Kim works as Executive Sommelier/Chief Partner at Josun Hotel & Resorts, a part of a large group that owns department stores, hotels, resorts as well as convenience stores.

"My responsibilities include providing consultations to sommeliers regarding wine list management, offering wine recommendations to the industry, and organizing wine events and tastings to enhance the overall dining experience."

His way into the world of wine started when he was studying and worked part-time in bars, pubs and restaurants. He thought of starting a bartending career – "but I couldn't shake off the feeling of being somewhat depressed while behind the bar," he says.

"However, during that period, I happened to see a sommelier over the bar, who always had a hearty laugh and joyfully opened champagne bottles for guests. That was the moment when I made up my mind to jump over the bar and become a sommelier."

Tell us about the wine scene in Seoul?
"It is a city where the term 'epicurean hub' truly fits. Seoul boasts a diverse wine scene, ranging from world-class restaurants to cosy and welcoming natural wine bars. However, due to high taxes, wine enthusiasts here are generally well-off, so there is a strong preference for very high-end wines rather than wines in the mid-price range."

What about South Korea in general?
"South Korea's wine scene has been steadily growing and evolving over the years. You can enjoy soju, but also wine, beer, sake and so on. We're even saying 'Korean night is from midnight'. It's a dynamic and vibrant scene, with a strong interest in wine among the young and rich generation. South Korea is an exciting place for wine enthusiasts."

I would like to focus more on advancing the sommelier culture

"Unlike the past when red wine dominated, there has been a noticeable upward trend in the popularity of champagne and white wine. There has also been a growing interest in natural wine and affordable wine. Many are showing an adventurous spirit, seeking wines from regions with strong artisanal traditions that are relatively unknown."

"Beyond the traditional preferences for Europe, Napa Valley, New Zealand, and Australia, emerging wine-producing countries like South Africa, Georgia, Austria, and Slovenia have been trending among the younger generation.

Anything you want to see more of?

"I would like to focus more on advancing the sommelier culture. Recently, I co-founded a group of young sommeliers called SOMZ. We aim to pursue hospitality that goes beyond mere standard service. We prioritize study and volunteer most importantly, contributing to nature and society. 

What makes a great wine list, in your opinion? "I believe that all wines are delicious, but ultimately, it's the sommelier who determines when why and how they taste 'great'. The wine list I love has a balance between uniqueness, quality, and thoughtful storytelling curation. Of course, it should also match the concept of the food, interior, atmosphere, and what the guests want."

Anything you want to add?
"I'm truly excited to be an ambassador for Star Wine List. I look forward to sharing my passion for wine and contributing to the growing appreciation of wine globally through this role." 

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