Beijing Olympics picks – wine bars

Cross-posted from my Beijing nightlife blog. I’ll soon post a list of Chinese wines to try for those in Beijing for the Olympics – it’s hard to believe they start in less than eight hours! JB.

Both residents of Beijing and the barbarians descending upon it for the Olympics will require watering holes in which to drink the sweet tastes of success and the bitters of failure. Over the next few days, I’ll be making “bar picks” and welcome others to throw in their two kuai. Yesterday, I looked at sports bars. Today, it’s wine bars. (Note: Part of the reason I picked some places is due to their proximity to other places.)

Aria

This first-floor bar in China World Hotel offers relaxed surroundings, good service, and a wine list that ranges from entry level to the Granges and Lafittes (at, of course, hotel prices). While the average five-star hotel has a wine list to satisfy most people, what I like about Aria is that it draws a crowd and has been the site of many a good wine tasting.

Bonus: Bar manager Danny Kane knows his vino.

Personal memory: When Australian Wine Maker Ben Glaetzer finally answered a lifelong question of mine – What wine goes kangaroo?

La Baie des Anges

Not the easiest place to find (see this map), LBDA is beside Hutong Pizza and about 100 meters from Houhai (Lotus Lane side). Not the biggest place, it offers wine by the glass and bottle at reasonable prices.

Bonus: Combine a visit here with a walk about that takes in Houhai, the drum and bell tower area, and Nanluoguxiang.

Personal memory: The time I dragged several friends across town and on a wild goose chase around Houhai only to finally LBDA and discover it is closed on Mondays. Ugh.

Palette Vino

Those willing to visit suburban Beijing should head to Pinnacle Plaza in Shunyi, where Palette Vino offers an excellent (especially Australian) selection of wines. Steak, lamb, and other items from the kitchen are available for those wishing to pair some food with their purchase.

Bonus: The South German Bakery outlet next door has excellent bread. Extra bonus: Get a further idea of the wine available in Beijing by browsing the selection at the Jenny Lou’s shop in the same plaza.

Personal memory: Drinking Riesling and eating BBQ salmon after a long trip to a local winery.

Café Europa

A family-owned restaurant in the Jianwai Soho complex (Building 16, 1F), Café Europa combines good eats with an ofttimes eclectic and regularly rotated wine list. Grab a seat outside and have a bottle or two.

Bonus: Try the Gruner Veltiner that the owners import from Austria.

Personal memory: When Cafe Europa celebrated its first anniversary by barbecuing a pig – you don’t see that too often in a business and residential complex.

Enoteca / CJW

Enoteca is a Shanghai-based wine bar chain recently opened its first branch in The Place (it offers about 100 wines, starting at RMB98 per bottle, and a tapas menu). CJW stands for Cigar, Jazz, Wine and is a bit pricier but more upscale spot in The Place. Either one is worth a stop, after dusk, for a glass of wine and a good view of that massive sky screen outside. [Note: I have received a few complaints about service at Enoteca and I had my own problems during a recent visit.]

Bonus: Beforehand, head across the street (east side) to Central Park and scope out the wine selections at Pekotan (deli and wine shop), Amigo / Top Cellar (restaurant and wine shop), Madam He, and Lohao (an organic shop – it sells two brands of Chinese wines).

Personal memory: The sky screen.

This barely scratches the surface of what is available: for high rollers, Blu Lobster has creative cuisine and an extensive wine list with lots of vintage Bordeaux; Aperitivo is a popular wine spot in the heart of Sanlitun; friends rave about The Vineyard Café wine list; Sequoia Café on Guanghua Road has 26 French wines (including a nice Viognier for RMB65) handpicked by locally based winemaker Alain Leroux; Café de la Poste has not only wine but also great steak to go with it; cheap drinks joints like Nanjie and Tun offer the decent local wine Grace Vineyard (RMB25-30 per glass); so do high-end places like Centro and the Ritz-Carlton Financial Street (along with much else), and on and on. If anyone out there has other recommendations, please include them in the comments section.

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