Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Korea Herald: Regina Walton's Expat Interviews - Schulte's wines fill a void in Seoul

The Korea Herald: Regina Walton's Expat Interviews - Schulte's wines fill a void in Seoul

While Seoul might not be New York City or London, it does have many interesting activities and events. Some of the more worthy of note are wine tasting events put on by Dan Schulte, CEO of Pieroth Wines, Korea.

Considering that I use wine tasting events to prove that Seoul is moving up in the culture ranks, imagine my excitement when I heard that there was a new wine bar in Seoul. Imagine my additional excitement when I heard that this wine bar was operated by none other than Dan Schulte and his associates at Pieroth Wines.

"It's just one of those things that you happen to be in the right place in the right time," said Schulte on how he found the position with Pieroth Wines.

After working in Japan for two years, he came to Korea initially to work for Cambridge University Press, specializing in marketing "English language learning books to all the universities in Korea. I did that for about seven years. It had reached a maturity point, and I was ready to move on ... I was still keeping my eyes open to see if could see anything interesting."

He added: "I had quite high standards of what would keep me here." Something interesting presented itself when he heard that Pieroth Wines was looking for someone to send to Europe to learn about wines in-depth, and who would in turn help them establish their wine business in Seoul. Pieroth Wines, a German wine company specializing in top-quality wines, fit his high standards and he fit what they were looking for, due to his success in establishing Cambridge University Press in the competitive textbook market in Korea.

In terms of marketing, Dan has achieved great success with Pieroth. Initially, Dan had to convince Pieroth that a mailing list business style wouldn't work in Korea.

"They wanted to set up a mailing-list style of business. Just set up a mailing list, see who is interested, and then do a tasting at their house ... And I told them immediately that would never work here.

"It has to be something through networking and you have to get access to this kind of upper level of society who have the money to drink, the extra time and who've traveled, because in Korea, that's who the wine drinkers are."

He started marketing Pieroth by going to events exclusively, networking and making sales. Over time he says he started "meeting key people who are people who know other people," and their sales grew.

After a while he started creating events where these people would come to special wine events and, in turn, bring new people with them. They realized that there weren't many events happening here for expats, or wine related events.

Dan acted, and now Pieroth Wines fills that void by having "accessible and fun" wine events.

"I had so many customers where I was coming in, and more and more I was becoming more of a consultant rather than just supplying their wines. I would come in and advise them on their business, right down to helping them with their license.

"We started doing all of these things and we started thinking, well, why don't we just open our own bar?"

The need for Kabinett became evident. He realized that while there are bars and lounges south of the Han River where you can sit down and have a nice quiet drink, north of the Han there weren't any "nice places where you could go where you could take a girl on a date and just have a nice drink."

The wine bar is bathed in a soft light, decorated in red tones with stonework and accented with light and dark tones of wood. The atmosphere is welcoming, cozy and comfortable.

The feelings from Pieroth events are the same. You feel welcome, cozy and comfortable, even if wine and wine tasting isn't a regular part of your lifestyle.

Through Kabinett, Schulte is working with other local businesses. Clients include a Latin dance school and a theater company to co-sponsor events. The result is a space that hosts many social functions in a backdrop where anyone from a wine novice to a wine connoisseur can enjoy themselves.

Regarding their events, Schulte says: "We always try present them in a way that is kind of down to earth and everyone can have fun. You always walk away from our events feeling like you've learned something."

"Originally, wine was just a hobby. I'm originally from the (San Francisco) Bay Area," Schulte explained.

Now, he's a resident of Seoul who has an exciting career where he brings something new and interesting to the drinking and dining scene.

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