Enjoying a glass of Pinot Grigio with a meal or sharing a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon with friends might still be a fairly foreign concept to some in China, but wine appreciation here is flourishing. And, with increasing demand, comes an increasing supply of wine bars offering both imported and Chinese wines. Partnerships between Chinese and French wine makers are starting up, and the popularity, availability and quality of imported and Chinese wines is increasing almost daily. You may be worried about those news headlines warning about the spread of 'fake' wines in China, but don't give up. Read on for a selection of quality wine bars in Nanjing, where you can be confident that you won't grow an extra foot, or end up sipping a chemically enhanced approximation of Bordeaux or Changyu.
1) Number Wine 葡萄酒吧View In Map
Hidden away in a small alleyway off Shanghai Lu and close to Nanjing Daxue, Number Wine is a small, tastefully decorated French wine bar. It is the perfect antithesis of 1912's monotonous nightclubs, or the crowded swell of foreign faces and shisha pipes in Ellen's bar. With a quaint courtyard outside (predictably empty during the cold winter months), and cosy seating indoors, it's run by a jovial Chinese man who serves as both patron and proprietor and whose language talents include French, a little English and a sound knowledge of French wine.
The relaxed atmosphere and homely feel is complimented by service with a smile, and as a result it is all too easy to while away several hours on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, or polish off a couple of bottles with the help of a few friends. The wine list is predominately French wines, including good value options for both red and white, starting from 138 RMB and 85 RMB respectively. (Smaller, individual bottles are available from 55 RMB.) If you really want to splurge, Number Wine has a selection of specialist wines ranging from 260 RMB to a substantial 1,888,888 RMB for a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1870.
When you start to feel a bit peckish, try the delicious club sandwich or go for the more traditional wine accompaniment and order a cheese plate (from 78 RMB). Enjoy a glass alone, making use of the speedy Wifi on your day off, or come with a few friends to share a bottle and some banter. If you're lucky, you might walk in on a film screening on the bar's projection equipment. The menu changes periodically, as new wines are added, and table snacks are complimentary. If your Mandarin's up to it and you want to improve your Cabernet credentials, ask about the wine tasting evenings and special events throughout the year.
Add: 17 Tao Valley Village (Tau Gu Xincun), Hankou Lu, Gulou District, Nanjing.
Tel: 025 5241 7982
Opening hours: 10:00－22:00
2) Cosima 可西玛餐厅 View In Map
Set slightly back from the busy intersection of Shanghai Lu and Hankou Lu, this Spanish Restaurant and bar is another of Nanjing's small (being the operative word) gems. Outside, rows of empty wine bottles line the sills and sidewalk leading you into a quaint Mediterranean-style interior. Even on a cold January night when clouds are looming overhead and the Nanjing chill has taken seat, Cosima is sure to warm your spirits with its distinctly Spanish feel.
Cosima is proud of its status as the 'smallest restaurant in Nanjing', so make sure to keep your party numbers low. Unless you're comfortable piling on top of each other, there's just enough space inside for seven seats and a small bar area. In the warmer months the bar adopts European style outdoor seating on a small patch of bare (if a little polluted) pavement. Don't let its modest size and proximity to a main road put you off though! The beaming smiles of friendly staff will charm you into sampling the freshly made Sangria or one of the imported Spanish wines on offer, as CD compilation Spanish guitar lingers in the air.
Red, white and sparkling wines are available, from 79–389 RMB for the bottle and an extensive food menu includes Spanish favourites such as Paella (79–139 RMB per person), chef-recommended Pizzas (around 60 RMB) and smaller snacks of Spanish ham, Manchego cheese and a delicious Spanish Omelet.
Add: 120 Shanghai Lu, Gulou District, Nanjing.
Tel: 025 8333 7576
3) Prime Bar, Zifeng Tower (78th floor)View In Map
Although similarities exist between this and any upmarket hotel lobby bar, Prime Bar exudes charm and sophistication, earning bonus points for being situated in Jiangsu's tallest building, the Zifeng Tower. Racks of wine bottles line the two-storey walls of this spacious bar, restaurant and cigar lounge where patrons are welcome to sink into comfortable armchairs for a slow drink as soft jazz induces a meditative state.
Blissfully devoid of the usual hovering and intimidation techniques wistfully employed by staff in other establishments, everything in Prime Bar seems geared towards intense relaxation. You won't feel obliged to spend the earth or splash out on star-rated cocktails, with a good choice of drinks for most budgets, and delicious free snacks. However, if the extensive buffet catches your eye, or you risk a peek at the restaurant menu, you might find yourself enjoying several courses accompanied by one of over 250 wines available, enjoying the intimacy of Prime Bar's ambience.
Towering over the streets of Nanjing, early evening is a great time to visit; the bar is quiet and you can see the lights of Nanjing's night come to life as the sun sets over Xuanwu Lake, Purple Mountain and the sprawling urban mass. Although a little pricey, you can be certain that the wine is authentic and the astounding views make it worth the extra expense. Glasses of red, white and rose start around 58 RMB with bottles available from 300 RMB.
Add: Intercontinental Hotel (Zifeng Tower), 78th floor, 1 Zhongyang Lu, Gulou District, Nanjing.
Tel: 025 8353 8888
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Keywords: wine bars Nanjing where to drink wine Nanjing French restaurants Nanjing expat-friendly Nanjing bars consumption of wine China
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