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Help: Wine Pairings w/Korean Food

I did a quick search of this board and could not find any recommendations for wine pairings with Korean food. I'm looking to buy a bottle of wine to go with a gift certificate to a favorite Korean restaurant of mine as a Christmas gift for my boss. I thought that was a cute idea since my boss loves wine and Korean food. Typically when I have Korean food a nice cold beer works for me and seems like an optimal match, but my boss isn't a fan of beer.

I know that traditionally sweet white wines go well with spicy food, but the boss is not much of a fan of sweet wines, like Spatlese , so I'm at a loss.

I kindly appreciate any help in this matter.

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  1. I find that Korean food is generally too spicy and/or vinegary to go well with wines, sweet or not. As you said, a light beer is optimal. Perhaps you could consider buying him a bottle of soju instead? It's similar to sake but less sweet (and often less smooth as well but that's not always true). I can't say soju is my thing so I unfortunately can't help with naming brands for you to look into. Or else, buy him a set of pretty soju drinking cups that he could also use to drink sake from or use as shot glasses, and leave out the actual alcohol part so he can buy something of his own liking.

    1. Try a kabinett instead and ask your boss to focus on the COMBINATION of the food and wine, not the wine by itself...

      As an alternative (or in addition to....), try a richly-flavored wheat beer. The banana, clove, and lemon notes can match spicy asian dishes very nicely. Paulaner's Hefe Weisse is a nice benchmark.

      1. There's a Korean rice wine, Chung Hwa (sp?) that your boss may like as well.

        I can't think of a grape wine that I could reccomend.

        1. This might not be the dish he orders, but if he likes bulgogi beef it is fantastic with a red Zinfandel. Since bulgogi is not too spicy, more of a bbq flavor, it really works. My favorite pairing is bulgogi with Klinker Brick or Cline's Ancient Vines...

          1. I'd like to nominate a potential pairing: Vinho verde.

            When we have Korean food at home (and Mexican, Pakistani, and other spicy cuisines), we find that vinho verde can stand up to the different panchan (sweet, hot, sour, etc.), goes well with grilled items, is nicely acidic and low in alcohol, and in general is a nice change in pace from beer.

            Gazela and Famega are our house picks, but they're all pretty good (and easy on the wallet). Give it a shot...

            1. Would have to concur with the other posters. I haven't met a wine that didn't have its butt completely kicked by Korean food. At best, a really inexpensive German Riesling with some residual sugar. But the Soju suggestion is much better. It can stand up to kimchi. Not much else can.

              1. a good korean beer like OB works well during the meal. your boss will like a seriously good cognac afterwards.

                  1. Thank you everyone for the input as it really helped me out. I really wish that my boss liked beer as like Chicago Mike said, a good hefeweiseen goes really well with Korean food. I ended up getting her a Famega Vinho Verde since she isn't really into bulgogi but is more of a spice head. I never had a Vinho Verde before so I also picked up one for myself.

                    Last night me and the SO cracked open the bottle and had it with some kimchi fried rice and bulgogi that I made for dinner. I thought it did well with the kimchi and hopefully my boss will think so too.

                    Thanks again!

                    1 Reply
                      1. Korean food is diverse and complex but there are many wines which match with Korean Food. If you are having fish or barbecued shellfish I recommend a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or French Viogner. Chardonnay goes well with barbequed squid especially o-jinga sundae, squid stuffed with rice, vegetables and squid ink.

                        If you are having Korean seafood (haemul-pa-jeon) or vegetable pancakes (pa-jeon) then I recommend Reisling with plenty of acidity but not too much sweetness. A good German Kabinett would work well.

                        If you are having Korean barbecue then try to find something that goes with the main meat. Cabernet Sauvignon that is suitably aged goes well with pork or pork ribs.

                        If you are having Shabu Shabu which is actually Mongolian, not Korean or Japanese, then a nice Zinfandel works.

                        If you have Dolsot Bibimbap, then I recommend a woody Chardonnay with slight malolactic fermentation.

                        Korean food is fun after living here four years is still the best thing about Korea.

                        Check out my blog for more ideas: http://winekorea.blogspot.com/