Wine bars are popping up all over the city, offering new and rare vintages to novice drinkers and wine devotees.
Aura Lounge and Jazz Bar, on the 52nd-floor of The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, pays homage to the flamboyant 1930s.
There’s an old Chinese proverb that states “Life is like wine.” With Shanghai’s recent inundation of wine from both Eastern and Western roots and a slew of new wine bars, that adage may very well be true in the bustling city.
The latest installation, The Ritz-Carlong Shanghai, Pudong, opened in June with four restaurant-wine bars touting a total of 400 wines with plans to extend the list by another 60–70 this year. The menu, meant to attract tourist and residents, includes local labels like Great Wall, Changyu and Dynasty, as well as wines from Château Cos d’Estournel, Trimbach, Cambria and Penfolds.
"We are catering to national as well as international customers,” said Rainer Burkle, regional vice president and general manager of The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong. “Our clientele are choosing better wines. They are looking more at the quality than the quantity.”
China—the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, making more wine than Spain and Portugal combined—has been producing wine for over 4,000 years, according to the Archeology Research Institute of Shandong University. But it only began to rise in prominence in the early ’80s, when it first imported French wine. It has since exported its own labels to California and Western Canada, and in 2008, wine merchant Berry Brothers and Rudd predicted that within 50 years, the quality of Chinese wine would rival that of Bordeaux.
The growth of the industry has prompted the opening of restaurant-wine bars and lounges all over China, especially in Shanghai, its most populous city. “We are going through the same cycles as in the States and Europe,” said Burkle about the new business ventures. “Wines, Cognacs, whiskeys and cigars—it’s all part of this. We are attracting more international and local guests who know or want to learn about wine.”
At Aura Lounge and Jazz Bar, located on the 52nd floor of the hotel, guests can select from 30 varieties of Champagne and sparkling wine, as well as limited-edition cigars. In the dimly lit bar is a private alcove for those who want to sip and smoke in private while listening to live jazz—a hotspot for regulars, says Burkle.
The wine list at Flair, on the 58th floor overlooking The Bund, includes Spätlese Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Their spirits selection boasts 40 types of vodka, as well as cocktails like Red Pepper Martini and Singapore Sling.
Enoteca, another hotspot in Shanghai, has a wine list that’s 150 items long, suitable for all budgets with prices ranging from $20–100. The owners categorize their red wines atypically: They’re divided into “Playful,” “Sensualist,” “Evocative” and “Hedonist,” with each category supposedly offering wines most evocative of that feeling. The Sensualist selection, for example, “features smooth, soft reds like Merlot and Shiraz.”
New Heights, located on the top floor of one of Shanghai’s most coveted addresses, Three on the Bund, is growing in popularity because of its wine menu and wraparound terrace—but the cocktails list is a favorite: Singapore Sling, a cherry Brandy-infused libation and Lychee Martini are favorites.
The Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen/The Wine Residence, decorated with candlelight and black-paned windows, is tucked away in a narrow alley. Visitors can take a tour of the wine cellar, a former bomb shelter, where more than 700 wines, including domestically produced Grace Vineyard Chardonnay and Spanish Marqués de Riscal 1860 Tempranillo, are stored. Similarly, at Cuvée, there’s a temperature-controlled wine room abundant with French and Australian wines guests can choose from.
“There is no one who does not like wine,” says Burkle. “Some are just still searching for the ones they prefer.” And he hopes that more and more guests turn to Shanghai’s wine bars to find what they’re looking for.