Makgeolli Rules!

Posted on May 15, 2011

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Photo from Chosun.com

by Jane Dahye Kim

On April 14, KFRI(Korea Food Research Institute) announced that their research team led by Professor Ha Jae Ho found a substance called “farnesol” in makgeolli. Makgeolli is a traditional Korean raw rice wine. Farnesol is a very important component in fruit wine. Even a small amount, 5~7mg/L can prevent cancer and tumor. In wine or beer, there is 15~20ppb of farnesol. But in makgeolli, there is 150~500 parts per billion (ppb). Therefore, in makgeolli, there’s almost 25 times more anti-cancer substance than in any other drink. The researchers said if you take makgeolli twice a week, 3 to 4 glasses at a time, it will have a virtual anti-cancer effect. Moreover, there is more farnesol in the turbid part of the makgeolli so it is much better to shake the makegeolli before drinking.

Makgeolli is aiming for globalization as well. For this, the Ministry for Food hosted a Quality Traditional Wine Competition on April 14, 2011. Hankyong National University received first prize in the raw rice wine part of the competition. Professor Lee Hak Gyo and his research team, members of environment friendly Agriculture and Stockbreeding Research Center, made a special makgeolli. Animal geneticists, fermentation microbiologists, and even agriculture economists devoted all their energy into make this. They call it “Cham Sal Ii Makgeolli.” This makgeolli is very special because it uses Korean environmentally friendly rice. This is unique because most makgeolli use imported rice because it is much cheaper. But by using Korean rice they found that the yeast, lactobacillus, in makgeolli increases.

Another manufacturer of alcoholic beverages called “Nam Han San Sung So Ju” is developing high quality makgeolli. For this, they gathered six professors and 15 advanced degree researchers. This team compared makgeolli made from imported rice with Korean eco-friendly rice. The result was fascinating. Methanol, which causes hangover, is formed 35 percent less in Korean eco-friendly rice. Also there is much more Vitamin C in the makgeolli.

Another firm joined this race of makgeolli. Gook Soon Dang and Seoul Tak Ju, manufacturers of alcohol produced a product called “Woo Gook Saeg.” They differentiated their product by adding nutritive component to the wrapper. This idea was a great hit and 85,000 are sold daily.

As the makgeolli market grows, on April 9th, Gyeonggi Province announced that they will promise to support $2.8 billion to seven makgeolli manufacturing companies located in Yang Ju, Po Cheon, and Ga Pyeong. This money will be spent for the improvement of the facilities and working expenses for expansion of exports. The northern part of Gyeonggi Do produces 42,000 tons of makgeolli, and among them 14,000 tons (almost 33.3%) is exported to Japan, USA and 13 other countries. This export amount is more than $12 million and these seven manufacturing companies export 74 percent of the whole export. Their aim this year is to export 30,000 ton, one manufacturer said. The companies are turning their eyes to South East Asia and Europe. Gyeonggi Province is planning to export one hundred million dollars worth of makgeolli by 2014, and expand this to three hundred million dollars by 2020.

Makgeolli expansion is heating up and even universities are joining the race. Shin La University is planning to open a class for makgeolli sommelier. Shin La University has been in the front line for branding makgeolli by establishing makgeolli laboratories. In this class, makgeolli sommeliers will learn how to brew makgeolli, distinguish tastes, and learn basic theories. They will also invent some makgeolli cocktails and snacks to eat with makgeolli.

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