Paris of the East indulges its love of French wines
Shanghai is bursting with chic, classy places to drink and be seen drinking wine these days, especially in the Bund and Pudong areas. Almost every imposing Bund building now sports a trendy, candlelit rooftop bar, with glorious views over to Pudong.
The Peninsula Shanghai is no exception (32, The Bund, or 32 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, tel +86 21 2327 2888). Its sommelier, Yang Lu, says the wine scene is changing rapidly. Gone are the days when the only reliable wine lists were to be found at M at the Bund and Jean Georges, nearby at 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu.
What's changed, he says, is that more foreigners have come to Shanghai and more Shanghainese are travelling and learning to appreciate wine. The handful of distributors has expanded, breaking up old monopolies, and this has allowed a far wider selection of wines to be imported.
Bordeaux is still the wine of choice. Even if drinkers know nothing about wine, they have heard of Bordeaux and follow the trend. But there are signs of change.
The next big thing after Bordeaux will be Burgundy, with more affordable Italian and Australian wines beginning to gain traction. China will remain a red wine story for some time yet, Lu predicts. 'The supply is much less, but Burgundy is much more interesting - I'd say 80 per cent of connoisseurs love Burgundy.
'The more Chinese people drink and learn about wine, the more they want. But like everything in China, the process is faster than elsewhere.'
So whose wine lists does he rate in Shanghai? For superb French wines, Franck, in the French concession (Ferguson Lane, 376 Wukang Lu, tel +86 158 2167 6767), gets his vote, together with the extensive Park Hyatt cellar in the World Financial Centre.
Its buyers have the freedom to choose the wines, while many hotels and restaurants play it safe, he says. Mr and Mrs Bund (18 Zhongshan East 1st Rd, tel +86 21 6323 9898) is another place that gets the Lu stamp of approval.
The House of Roosevelt at 27 The Bund is worth a visit. Despite its collection of 3,000 labels, this cellar doesn't make Lu's hall of fame ('There are many supermarket wines,' he says). But it is still Shanghai's first true wine destination. As well as having the city's biggest wine cellar, the entire building is given over to wine. The second floor has a cellar, a bistro, wine bars and an exclusive gentlemen's club, and a rooftop bar offers glorious views of Pudong.
Built for Jardine Matheson in 1920, the Bund mansion is now owned by the Roosevelt family of US presidential fame. It claims to deal with 10 different distributors. The list is extensive and covers the full price range, from cheap and cheerful to thoroughly exorbitant.
Flair (tel +86 21 2020 1888) is the place for views of Pearl Oriental Tower. Head to the Ritz-Carlton in Pudong, which starts at the 58th floor of the IFC Tower. There is a split-level outdoor terrace and views of the Bund, the Hongkou shore and downtown Puxi. But be warned: there's a minimum cover charge of 350 yuan (HK$426) per person.
The Fat Olive is a favourite with Shanghai residents. Created by Australian-Greek chef David Laris, the restaurant offers a blackboard with daily choices by the glass and bottle, backed up by an extensive list of New and Old World wines. There's also a Greek mezze. The Fat Olive is at 6/F, Silver Court Building, 228 Xizang Nan Lu (tel +86 21 6334 3288).
Also highly recommended, but relatively pricey, is NAPA Wine Bar and Kitchen. It is set in a century-old, fully restored, three-storey mansion. The wine list is extensive and the sommelier skilful. NAPA is at 57 Jiangyin Lu, near Huangpi Lu (tel +86 21 6318 0057).
Dr Wine, a two-storey wine bar and lounge in the French concession, serves French food to go with its drinks (177 Fumin Lu, near Julu Lu, tel +86 21 5403 5717). There's also Cloud 9, on the 87th floor of the Grand Hyatt. From the apex of Jin Mao Tower, drinkers have a 360-degree view of Shanghai from one of the city's highest vantage points. It's at Jin Mao Tower, 88 Century Avenue, Pudong (tel +86 21 5049 1234).