Korea's Top Sommelier on Music and Wine

      September 07, 2009 07:24

      Kim Yong-hee

      As more Koreans appreciate wine, the number of sommeliers is also increasing. In France, the Union de la Sommellerie Française brings together people with a sommelier's license based on rigorous training, and the competition hosted by the union, le Concours du Meilleur Sommelier de France, is the channel by which the union discovers and cultivates young talent. And for the last eight years, the Korean equivalent of the competition, Concours du Meilleur Sommelier de Corée en Vins de France, has been held under the sponsorship of SOPEXA.

      Kim Yong-hee won this year's competition. The 37-year old works at a restaurant near the Seoul Museum of History. He finally claimed the title in his fifth try, having entered the competition first in 2005.

      An accomplished jazz guitarist, Kim said he has never hung up his instrument since his first year of middle school. Until mid-twenties, his main job was playing the guitar in jazz clubs and as a session musician. He still plays jazz with a band every Friday night at the wine bar in the second floor of the restaurant.

      "I think jazz and wine have in common that the more you think you know about it, the more you feel you don't know about it," says Kim. "Just like wine novices have difficulty getting used to the taste of tannin at first, it takes a while for first listeners to feel at ease with jazz. It reflects the depth of jazz and wine. They're also similar in that connoisseurs of jazz and wine tend to have strong personal tastes and preference."

      "I have tasted about 10,000 wines, and I realized that the more I learn, the more I don't know about wine," Kim says. His detailed tasting notes fill a big box. "Maybe it's because I studied arts before wine, but I want to open a restaurant where artists can feel free and comfortable in the future. There is so much to wine that you never feel you know enough. That is what's so charming about it," he says.

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