Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yeongdong Grape Festival teaches Koreans wine from grape to glass

Kyoho grapes, a Japanese varietal, is also very popular in Korea for both table grapes and wine. (Photo by Tomomarusan via Creative Commons license.)

The Korean Tourism Organization is building appreciation for grape wine at the Yeongdong Grape Festival, running Sept. 3 through 7 in the southwest province of Chungcheong. 

"The programs … offer participants a chance to pick grapes, make their own wine, or both!" the event description said.

Teaching people to make their own wine seemed a little unusual. I live in Northern California, where several hundred wineries carefully — and expensively — produce wines known the world over for high quality. Even some Napa-Sonoma wine clubs for amateurs to small-scale pros such as Judd's Hill MicroCrush, Crushpad and Kings Hill Cellars cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to produce a barrel.

The winemaking class at the Yeongdong Grape Festival set participants back 5,000 won, with a 1,000 won discount if they brought their own grapes. A similar winemaking class in Napa County, Calif., would cost nearly $100, which would be approximately 110,000 won.

I asked Joshua Hall of Wine Korea what grapes were likely being offered in Yeongdong.
Probably Campbell early or kyoho. They may throw some muscat into the mix too. Resulting wine will be sweet, sweet, sweet. From the photo, it looks like they are making 포도주 [podoju, grape wine]. A fun day out for the kids.
Oregon-based horticulturist Lon Rombough, BS, MS, ATM, said the Campbell variety has a
complex parentage, bred by a private U.S. breeder in the 1880s. This black grape, with its big berries and big clusters has Concord-like flavor, but it's sweeter with less of the musky aftertaste of the older grape. While not commonly grown in the U.S., it is a favorite variety in Japan and other Asian countries.
The kyoho grape was developed in Japan as a cross between Campbell and centennial grapes. The skin easily comes away from the fruit, and most people eat the juicy pulp and discard the skins. The variety also is grown in California and sold in many of the Asian supermarkets in the San Francisco Bay area starting in July through September or October.

Both varietals produce grapes that are much larger than the wine varieties common to Northern California, such as pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. Campbell and centennial grapes are nearly the size of small plums and have such a dark shade of purple that they're nearly black. Both are slip-skin grapes because consumers usually squeeze the juicy flesh into their mouths and discard the thick skins.

Both varietals are similar to the American Concord grape, potentially giving any wine made from them a sweeter taste. Campbell and kyoho grapes also can be used to make jams, jellies and fruit syrups.

For more information about the grape festival, go to the KTO's page on grape-picking and winemaking at the festival.

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