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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Cheong-do Wine Tunnel

By Steve Roberts

Yesterday I went to the Gam Wine Tunnel, the world’s first persimmon wine-aging tunnel. This one is in the town of Cheong-Do, which is about 120 kilometers northwest from Ulsan. I went with a friend from work and his family in their car.

We traveled for about 2 hours taking a very scenic trip through some of the mountains between here and Cheong-Do. My friend Chris and his wife wanted to stop for lunch before we arrived at the wine tunnel. There is a town called Hanjae that is “Famous” for their dropwort vegetables. It’s known in Korean as minari.

The lunch spread: Hanjae Minari

Usually this plant is most popular in early spring when the flavors in the plant are not as strong. Chris told me that the plant is usually eaten raw with some cooked pork added along with the standard garlic and brown bean paste. Today we ate it raw as well as cut up into 2~3″ lengths and cooked it in the grease from the pork.

A bite sized morsel of dropwort and pork, with brown bean sauce

This is one of the Korean dishes that I cannot readily identify with a comparable western food. At this point it took on kind of a steamed spinach flavor and texture…sort of…pretty good I thought. It seems like the obligatory soju/beer is always needed to accompany any Korea dish, so of course we popped open a Hite.

Requisite Hite

After lunch we continued on and arrived at the tunnel around mid afternoon. There were a lot of people there doing the same thing that we were, looking to check this place out and do some sampling of the wines available. This is a photo of the sign that explains some of the history of the tunnel.

History of the Wine Tunnel

It was a warm and humid day until we walked in the tunnel entrance then it was a lot cooler, humidity was still pretty high but it was definitely pleasant.

Wine tunnel or Hobbit hole?

As we progressed through the tunnel there are exhibits of the both things that have used the tunnel, trains and wine. There were vendors with nice displays set up to sell the persimmon wine to the visitors. Also, there are quite a few tables, chairs, and picnic benches available to sit down and taste test the wine and cheeses.

Wine and Cheese

We walked the entire length of the accessible tunnel, which was about 500 feet in length. Along the way there were lighted displays and large wine storage casks, There was even a giant lighted wine bottle suspended in the air pouring wine (Lights of course) into a large glass. I heard a lot of “Hana, Dul, Set“, Click/Flash. It was difficult to get a picture without a bunch V-for victory fingers wagging all over the place.

At the inner end of the tunnel is a gated fence that is where the aging of the wine takes place. They have a lot of wine, so I don’t think they’ll run out anytime soon.

The wine storage area

On our return walk we stopped and bought a bottle of the mid-grade wine for KRW 18,000 and 2 different cheeses for another KRW 18,000. Once we found a picnic table we just relaxed, did some people watching and enjoyed the wine. I found persimmon  wine to be very sweet with no bitterness or after-taste. I will definitely drink more of this wine, I’m more of beer or Bombay and Tonic kind of person, but I DID find this enjoyable.

We finished up there and after we left the tunnel, we noticed there was a Buddhist Temple about 100 meters away so, we went ahead and walked over to it and I popped a few pictures and Chris spent some time in one of the temple prayer rooms. After all this we came back to Ulsan and called it a successful day of sightseeing.

The Temple

Anyone adventurous enough to search for the Persimmon Wine Tunnel will have an enjoyable experience.

On a personal note, Chris has sort of taken it upon himself to be my personal tour guide and he is a great representative of the Korean people, I’m lucky to have a friend as good as him.

Chris and his Family

To Get There: I searched Google and this address came up…..252-2 Songgeum-ri, Hwayang-eup, Cheongdo-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea +82 54-373-1904…..Good Luck. I made this map, it might help too.

View Persimmon Wine Tunnel – Cheong-Do. in a larger map

By Bus: Take an intercity bus to Cheongdo, then take the bus bound for Songgeum-ri (송금리). (Departs 10 times a day / 07:00, 07:50, 09:40, 11:20, 13:20, 14:50, 16:00, 18:00, 19:20, 20:20) (bus info from the Korea Tourism website page)