You may not have heard of Yeongwol Yemil Wine Village yet, but as the world becomes more and more enraptured with South Korean culture, food and drinks included, you will soon enough.
Yemil Wine Village, technically known as Yemil 2-ri, is a small, unassuming paradise for wine-lovers nestled cosily within Mt. Manggyongdae Valley. It sits comfortably alongside Yemil 1-ri, commonly referred to as the ‘Grape Village’.
In Korean, the word ‘Yemil’ means ‘full of courtesy’, and similarly to the word, the Yemil Wine Village is full of wonderful wine fragrances waiting to be explored by the world.
Additionally, this place holds a historic wonder in that it is home to one of South Korea’s most historically revered poet’s memorial, right there in Yeongwol. Kim Satgat’s spirit lives on in the mountains and you will feel it as you embrace the wine culture at Yemil Wine Village.
Read on to find out more about this wonderfully mystique wine village in Yeongwol.
First off, why are Yemil’s grapes so tasty?
What’s the secret, you ask? Well, the most distinct feature of the wine production in Yemil goes all the way back to the farming of the grapes; the vines are, in fact, carefully nurtured in calcareous soil. In addition, their roots are known to permeate deep into the calcium-rich soil, allowing them to absorb nutrients from its strata in abundance. This results in grapes that boast a rich, aromatic flavour.
Given the location of the village, there are marked differences between the temperature’s highs and lows, from when the sunlight shines brightly through the valley to when the rough winds blow along it. Overtime, the grapes have developed a thick skin, clear shadings, and a high sugar content.
These grapes are so delicious and sought after that, in fact, they’ve actually won some highly desirable competitions organised by the Republic of Korea’s Rural Development Administration (RDA).
There is a great deal of science that goes behind these Yemil grapes; they are actually grown and processed over an entire year!
It starts off with grape production, which leads to fermentation, and eventually to maturing, which takes place at the Yemil Village.
During off-peak season, 10 of the 65 households in the village grow grapes. However, during the seasonal peak periods, all 130 villagers pitch in to the community to help with side-shoots, small fruits, and harvesting.
How Did Yemil Become Reborn As ‘Wine Village’?
Yemil was not always known as the wine village. In fact, up until 2009, Yemil village was only known for selling grapes (as delicious as they were!).
Since 2009, its Agricultural Corporation declared it as a wine village, and the rest is history.
A proper winery was founded in 2011, and slowly but surely, a complete full-circle wine experience centre was established in 2015. To continue its tourism-led campaign, a Relaxing Foot Bath Experience Centre was also opened last year. This marks it as a 6th industry tourism-experience village.
However, the effects on tourism due to COVID-19 has placed a halt on any further acceleration of the village. It also meant that Yemil village was unable to host its planned grand opening event.
This did not dampen the villager’s spirits though, as word of mouth kept spreading about this wonderful off-the-beaten-track village, hidden in the mountains of South Korea.
Many people had already paid for a visit to the village before the pandemic, and now, despite the effect of COVID-19, Yemil Wine Village has become a full-fledged tourism experience village and is now considered a major tourist destination by locals and foreigners alike.
What Types of Wine Does Yemil Wine Village Produce?
Yemil wines are distinct in that they have a robust, fruity fragrance and are richly shaded.
Yemil village produces four distinct types of wine: ‘Rose’, ‘Sweet’, ‘Dry’, all of which are red wines, and ‘Cheonghyang’, which is a white wine. The type of wine is distinguished by when the grape seeds and skins are removed from the wine tanks.
These wines have accumulated multiple awards over the years despite the village itself being relatively young to the wine scene. These awards include the Silver award at the 2018 Gwangmyeong Cave Korean Wine Festival and the Grand Prize in the wine category at the 2019 Korean Wine and Spirit Awards.
Since 2017, a wine festival is held every November, and as a testament to Yemil’s budding reputation, an exponential number of overseas enquiries have been coming in for Yemil Wines.
Exciting times indeed!
If you’re wondering whether there will be enough wine for you given how popular Yemil’s wines have become – don’t worry. They are incredibly well-prepared year on year. Around 2000t of grapes are used for making wine annually. This produces a whopping 20,000 bottles of wine!
However, to put it into perspective, only 10% of the grapes produced in Yemil are actually made into wine. The villagers are working hard behind the scenes right as we speak to expand these facilities for the influx of visitors expected over the next few years.
‘La Vie En Rose’ – Enjoy Life With a Wine Foot Bath
One other massive reason why Yemil Wine Village is increasing in popularity over the past few years is not only because of the wine, but the other experiences that the village has to offer.
This would most notably be the wine footbath experience! Known as the ‘making your own wine label’ program, this popular experience is super fun and relaxing at the same time.
For those with families, the seasonal grape harvesting experience is another one of the most popular group activities here.
In addition to the above popular programs, there are plenty of other experience activities as well, including making wine soap, wine ice cream, and even wine muffins! There’s also a natural wine dyeing program which is run by the local villagers who welcome visitors with open arms.
During the cold winds of autumn and winter, you can expect there to still be visitors pouring into the village to enjoy the wine experience program. A visit to Yemil Wine Village is a fun relaxing getaway from most people’s busy lives so even harsh weather conditions won’t stop them!
The Special Secret at the Heart of the Popularity of Yemil Wines
Mr Hyung Shin Kwon, head of the Relaxing Foot Bath Centre, believes that the biggest reason why Yemil’s popularity as a wine village as soared over the past few years is simple: it’s because people are beginning to realise just how much more fragrant, sweet, and therefore delicious the grapes produced in Yemil are!
Wine aficionados will know that 80% of a wine’s flavor is determined by its raw ingredients, thus making Yemil’s wine superior.
Another reason why he believes word keep spreading about how good Yemil Wine Village is, is because of the heart of the people.
Instead of a ‘every man for themselves’ approach, the entire village of Yemil comes together to make sure it prospers. The authenticity and genuineness of the people shine through in all aspects of their lives and operations, from the financial side of the wine industry to the re-developing of Yemil into a tourism destination.
Everyone has their part, and they all play it well – together.
You may or may not believe it, but Mr Hyung Shin Kwon believes that this secret of the people lays part of the foundation as to why the Yemil vines produce tastier grapes and wines.
“A stout heart is the greatest treasure” – Mr Hyung Shin Kwon.
As the world is re-emerging from the aftermath of COVID-19 and people begin excitedly planning their international travels again, South Korea will definitely emerge as one of the most popular countries to visit.
Whilst grand destinations like Seoul and Busan will always be on the list for exciting times, we highly recommend adding Yemil Wine Village for that bit of a break in between roller coaster rides and hunting for the best Korean Fried Chicken.
Yemil Wine Village is fast becoming a must-see destination in Korea purely for its simple and untouched beauty, in the village, the landscape, and the people. Plan a visit to this beautiful wine village and leave the troubles of COVID-19 behind.