In 2008, Hong Kong’s liquor authorities eliminated excise duty on wine and certain other alcoholic beverages, previously taxed at 40%. Sales soared, and a new facet of the city’s nightlife has flourished. Enophiles flock to wine bars in hotels, retail outlets and, especially, in store-front trend-setters in and around Soho (South of Hollywood Road). Here are some standouts, from below street level to soaring, glass-sheathed towers.
California Vintage CV Wine Bar. This small, wood-lined bar features offerings from 22 family-owned California wineries and a small-plates menu in suggested pairing categories (Gilroy Garlic Fries are recommended with sparkling wines and light whites). Guests sample wine flights, seasonal specialties (Francis Coppola’s 2009 Sofia Rosé from Monterey) or self-serve from 84 bottles in the WineStation machines. These include Bonneau’s 2008 Chardonnay from Carneros, Tierra Roja’s 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa and Stuhlmuller’s 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley.
Classified. One of a number of neighborhood cafés offering wine, cheese, bread and coffee, this original outlet, near antique shops and the Man Mo Temple, is bilevel and open-air, with large rustic tables placed adjacent to a wine wall and a walk-in cheese library. Stellar by-the-glass pours include Kilikanoon’s 2007 The Lackey Chardonnay from Clare Valley, Mulderbosch’s 2009 Sauvignon Blanc from Stellenbosch and Domaines des Roches Neuves’s 2008 Saumur-Champigny from the Loire Valley.
Enoteca Wine Bar. This intimate, Mediterranean-styled storefront features an open façade, high stucco walls and wrought-iron fixtures. Spanish tapas accompany 20 by-the-glass selections, including Joseph Perrier’s NV Cuvée Royale Brut Champagne, Dopff au Moulin’s 2010 Gewürztraminer from Alsace, Castello Banfi’s 2008 Centine from Tuscany, Tinpot Hut’s 2010 Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough and Delas Freres’s 2009 Côtes-du-Rhône.
Oyster & Wine Bar at the Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel & Towers. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer a panoramic view of Victoria Harbor from this 18th-floor lounge and encompass the intimate, all-red Wineroom with crystal-laden shelves. To accompany fresh oysters, self-service Enomatic wine dispensers provide tastes in 1-, 2.5- and 5-ounce pours of a rotating roster of wines like Australia’s By Farr Farrside’s 2009 Pinot Noir and Grant Burge’s 2005 Meshach Shiraz, and Château Clerc Milon 2005 from Pauillac.
Riedel Room @ Q88 at the JW Marriott. This lobby-level venue boasts Riedel crystal stemware and a 33,540-crystal centerpiece in the private VIP room. The walk-in cellar houses 200 red wines, including Château Pétrus 2003. The 40 by-the-glass selections feature Gaja’s 2009 Sito Moresco from Piedmont, Stag’s Leap’s 2008 Karia Chardonnay from Napa and an impressive lineup of sweet wines, including Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2008 Eroica Riesling Ice Wine from Columbia Valley and Inniskillin’s 2006 Gold Oak-Aged Vidal Ice Wine from Canada.
Tastings Wine Bar. Two dozen steps below the street-level restaurants and boutiques, this diffused neon-lit, high-ceilinged space offers a hip vibe and a wine list with more than 200 bottles, 40 of which are available by the glass via Enomatic dispensing machines. These include Pol Roger’s NV Brut Champagne, S.A. Prüm’s 2004 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese from the Mosel, Michel Magnien’s 2006 Morey-St.-Denis and Penfolds’s 1995 Grange from South Australia.