Bar Veloce: Funky grapes and functional design in Sanlitun South

View from Veloce's bar (yes, I know, not the greatest photo)

I went to new wine bar Veloce in 1949: The Hidden City for a drink last night. I have to admit, I was flagging a bit after a wine tasting and a jazz concert earlier in the evening, thus my notes are brief:

  • The idea is to have 60 to 70 wines by the bottle and 9 to 12 by the glass, says Krishna Hathaway (formerly at Aman Resort), who opened the place with Leon Lee (Apothecary, formerly at OT Lounge), among others.
  • Expect to find a funkier wine list than at most spots in Beijing. Less commonly found grapes include Touriga Nacional and Gruner Veltliner, associated with Portugal and Austria respectively. Some bottle prices: Loimer Gruner Veltliner 2007 at rmb500, Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba 2009 at rmb560 and Ridge Vineyards Lytton Spring Dry Creek Zinfandel 2006 at rmb830.
  • If memory serves, there were five red and three white wines by the glass, most priced from rmb75 to rmb85 for a 120 ml pour, which is on the light side. Sixty ml half pours also available. I had a Donnafugato Anthilia 2010 from Sicily, made primarily with local grape Catarratto but also including Chardonnay, Viognier and Ansonica. Not a wine you often see and nice for those who like a mineral finish. Hathaway says the by-the-glass list will be rotated each season and is good for customers who like a particular wine and want to repeatedly return to drink it. (I tend to lean the other way and enjoy more frequent rotations, or at least a few new items here and there, for repeat imbibers. Different kinds of regulars.)
  • In terms of décor, expect orange brick, a high ceiling, neatly arranged seating and a few industrial touches. One end has a three-sided bar, the other lower seats, and in between is a high table for twelve. There is a cubby hole for about six, a few seats against the windows on the north side, and some tables outside. No shortage of options. The decor has an upscale Ikea feel and seems like it could fit into many a major city of the world — and basically be packed up in three hours for shipping. That functionality will be useful for tastings and events.
  • In terms of food, panini and bruschetta start at rmb25, with salads at rmb40 and a cheese plate at rmb120. Expect modest portions.

Veloce is one of at least a half-dozen wine bars that will open in Sanlitun. That location near Duck de Chine, and its potential for events, should bode well, and with with coffee and snacks, it is also a lunch or break option.

Beijing doesn’t have many good wine bars, not if we define that as places that are stand-alone, that aren’t backed by a single distributor, that are stocked wines from a wide range of suppliers, and that have wine as a primary focus rather than as a potential complement to food. Thus, it will be interesting to see happens with Veloce and other wine bars opening in the Sanlitun and Workers Stadium area over next few months. Expect plenty of updates….

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