Pieroth Korea introduces international wine brands
By John Redmond
With more Koreans traveling abroad for work and study, there is growing demand to meet the ever expanding desire to satisfy culinary wants acquired overseas. Combined with a greater foreign population, this has led to growth in local wholesale markets.
One such area is the wine trade.
Pieroth Wines, with a head office in Burg Layen, Germany, operates local outlet Pieroth Korea, that has been selling international wine brands and providing tastings since 2006.
“We are the world's largest direct wine sales company and have our own vineyards and wineries in Germany, France, Hungary, Australia and South Africa with more than 4,500 employees in 20 countries throughout the world,” states the website.
The company is owned by the founding Pieroth family, which can look back on over 325 years of wine making tradition. The direct sales concept is based on personal wine tasting in the customer's own office or home.
Pieroth Korea has taken this same approach and included a special wine tasting area at its head office in Hannam-dong Seoul.
“To do this, we attract and retain enthusiastic, loyal clients by striving for variety and innovation in everything we do, from the products we develop to the way they are packaged and presented to existing and prospective clients. Our product is marketed through in-home tastings, special events, such as hotel wine tastings and exhibitions. Our wine consultants educate and inform about fine wines and how to match them with delicious cuisine. Furthermore, they build and maintain lasting relationships with our clients through their knowledge of wine and their sensitivity to our clients needs.”
The host for the wine tasting was Christian Sigouin, wine consultant and sales manager of Pieroth Korea, who invited the guests into a special tasting area comprised of a rack of international wines, two small wooden tables and chairs with bottles and glasses neatly arranged. The selection of wines varied from whites to reds from the likes of France, Germany, South Africa, California and Australia.
Sigouin is a French Canadian from Hull, Quebec. He put himself through school by working in fine dining and worked with a lot of professional people like sommeliers, chef's and maitre d's. Thus, he had a really hands on approach to learning about food and wine.
While pouring the wine and asking for comments he spoke to The Korea Times about his association with Pieroth Korea and how wine in Korea is being accepted.
The Korea Times: How long have you been in Korea?
Christian Sigouin: I've been here since 2003.
Q: How did you get involved in Pieroth Korea?
A: I was looking for wine online and came across the Pieroth website. I emailed the then country director and we scheduled a meeting. I was looking for wine but also a career change. Within a month I was working for Pieroth.
Q: How is Korea taking to the business?
A: It's a market with great potential but Koreans aren't daily wine drinkers, not yet anyway which makes it harder to sell cases of wine to them than to Europeans for example.
Q: What wines do locals favor?
A: Sweet wines sell well which works out great for us as we carry a wide range of them. Wine is still perceived as a luxury product though, with most people having it on special occasions of giving it as a gift.
Q: Who are your biggest customers?
A: Koreans north of 30, often those who have traveled abroad and developed a taste for wine. Foreigners of all ages also by our wines as they have a reference point with regard to price and see the value of buying wine at wholesale prices through Pieroth.
Q: If people want a wine tasting what and how should they go about it?
A: All they need to do is contact me. The tastings are free and they are the primary way that we introduce our product to customer. Tastings can take place at their office, in their homes or even at our office where we have a tasting room and an outdoor patio.
Q: Can you guide our readers through a wine tasting?
A: Typically I bring five to six wines and stemware with me. Each wine gets a bit of background and an anecdote or two. Customers are poured a tasting portion and are welcomed to ask questions as they taste. The whole experience is very pleasurable and I often get comments like: "Why didn't we do this before?" Customers are then given the opportunity to place an order to receive the wines they liked the most at wholesale prices and with free delivery right to their door.
Q: Are there particular wines for certain foods and seasons?
A: As it's summer right now we are focusing or fresh whites, sparkling wines and lighter bodied reds to match the summer cuisine.
Q: What would you recommend as a good wine to accompany Korean food?
A: As most Korean food is a bit spicy, German whites are the best match; they are served chilled, have a bit of sweetness and generally have less alcohol, all of which helps to tone down the spice. They also pair well using the method of achieving balance through contrast. Hot and spicy meets cool and sweet.
I believe that Koreans are just now discovering the pleasure of drinking wine. Each wine has a story to tell and a bottle of wine shared amongst friends is the perfect conversation starter. A glass of wine always puts a smile of your face and makes you think of where the wine came from and how best to enjoy it with food.
Sigouin, originally came to Korea to teach English. He loved the place and decided to look for another line of work and has been with Pieroth going on six years now. He’s held related jobs, such as an instructor at Cordon Bleu and also managed a wine bar owned by Pieroth. He teaches a wine class from time to time and for that he wrote a book.