Whilst an ice cold Cha Yen may seem more commonplace, Bangkok and wine are having a bit of a love affair at the moment. Much like in the rest of the world, natural wines have become a hot topic behind bars. The word ‘dinner’ has become a mere afterthought post the far more alluring phrase ‘wine pairing’. And an elegant crystal bowl and stem on a wine glass have become as necessary as a bamboo or metal straw in any trendy, sophisticated, and fashionably urban household. Wine — though it has its roots in what feels like forever ago — is every classy Bangkokian’s current swirl du jour.
Of course, drinking wine is no new discovery. The city has long housed spaces for those who like to kick back with a rich red or a light white. We have a franchise called ‘Wine I Love You’, for crying out loud. Yet what is new is the suspecting sipper’s refreshed reaching for a bit of wine education, and an environment within which to really, properly, enjoy it.
This is why we’ve uncorked and uncovered some of the best wine bars in Bangkok, based around a sophisticated wine drinking experience. We’re talking an ambience of history and heritage that helms from a house-own cellar. A wine list that is bigger, better, and far heavier than the food menu. And a sommelier that can recite the estates of Bordeaux faster than you can spell out ‘Biodynamic New World’. From young and fun to traditional and romantic, here’s where you need to head in Bangkok when the clock next strikes Wine O’clock.
[Featured and Hero image credit: The Bar Upstairs]
Hottest in town: Wet
If there is one spot every Bangkokian about town is buzzing about right now, it is this one. The latest (and rumoured to be the last) snazzy haunt in the city by the endlessly award-winning Gaggan Anand, Wet has opened right next to Gaggan, to a great acclaim that goes beyond its wildly memorable and playful name. Of course, if you’ve ever dined at Gaggan (Asia’s Best Restaurant four years in a row, no less), you’ll know that the wines suggested, selected, and served by sommelier extraordinaire Vladimir Kojic have long been paramount to the experience. At Wet, Kojic puts together an incredibly interesting selection of organic, biodynamic, new world, and small-batch independent wines, alongside hearty ‘bar snacks’ by Gaggan, which entail anything from Chicken Masala to Pork Cutlets. Every wine here has a story, which is why it comes highly recommended to chat through your selection before ordering. The spot is entirely unpretentious and utterly on trend, and as if it could topple its cool point score even more, the exposed brick and neon light interiors are designed by none other than Teens of Thailand’s Gunn Lee, too.
Wet, 68/9 Soi Langsuan, Phloenchit Rd., Bangkok, +66 2 117 2835, Open Mon-Sat 4.45pm-2am
Update: As of late summer 2019, Wet has closed its doors and shut down. There have been sad faces all around ever since.
Wines on tap: Riedel Wine Bar & Cellar
If you’re a bit of a connoisseur yourself, you’re probably familiar with Austrian crystal wine glass maker Riedel. The European wine experts are known for perfecting the art of the most eloquently shaped wine glasses and decanters, producing a widely impressive and extravagant selection of glassware for different kinds of wine. They know that you’d never drink a Shiraz out of a Chardonnay glass (for you are not an animal), and yet they also know that if you’re not a connoisseur, you can still enjoy wine at their Riedel Wine Bar & Cellar. Here, an ever-changing selection of wines is available ‘on tap’ (!) for lovers and beginners to try a variety of wines from a very futuristic (and must-‘gram) dispenser. Guests can choose from a full 150ml glass or a 30ml taster portion, with a selection of cold cut platters and oysters for pairing. Head to the terrace to relax with sweeping views of the city centre alongside a glass of our personal favourite, the Hungarian Disznókö Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos dessert wine (THB 590/100ml) or the impressive Portuguese blend of grapes Quinta do Zambujeiro (THB 900/150ml). It’s a stylish spot to unwind post a shopping ’til dropping session within Gaysorn, but also a great spot to head to entirely on its own.
Riedel Wine Bar & Cellar, 2/F, Gaysorn, 999 Phloenchit Rd., Bangkok, +66 2 656 1133, Open daily 11am-12am
A French secret garden: The Bar Upstairs
Since its opening, The Bar Upstairs has quickly risen to become one of the city’s most beloved French wine bars. Set amongst a romantic, green, and leafy interior on the third floor of Brasserie Cordonnier, the secret garden manages to combine something of a picnic in the park with a deliciously European wine tasting and cheese eating experience. Besides a small wine cellar, the lively wine bar also provides a selection of garden-inspired botanical cocktails, for those who prefer a tinge of sweetness or herb with their wine. The drinks list aims to please both the insider and the not-just-yet-insider, with a guide to flavour profiles, and a selection spanning North and South America, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and even parts of the Middle East, besides the infamous European household names. Enjoy a Spanish full-bodied Faustino V (THB 3550/bottle) alongside salami and homemade terrine, or the dry and fruity Aubaine Domaine Pabiot (THB 2600/bottle) from the Loire Valley with some classic French escargot. For special occasions, we recommend the vintage 1989 Château La Laguna Cabernet Merlot (THB 11500/bottle). All wines are available for takeaway too, so really, consider it your very own local fashionable bodega.
The Bar Upstairs, 3/F, 33/30 Sukhumvit Rd. Sri 11, Bangkok, +66 2 821 5110, Open Sun-Wed 5pm-12am; Thurs-Sat 5pm-1am
Beautifully Mediterranean: La Casa Nostra
Translating to ‘our house’ from the Italian, La Casa Nostra elegantly combines fine Italian cuisine with wine, with a true breeze and feel of a country house in Tuscany. We love a wine list that reads, ‘to see our full wine selection, ask your server to show you our wine cellar”, and we love a restaurant that actually has a well-stocked wine cellar. A collaboration between The Wine Merchant Co. and Chef Alessandro Frau of Phuket’s renowned Acqua Restaurant, La Casa Nostra wholly embraces Mediterranean wine and dine culture in a relaxed setting. The extensive wine list features wines from Italy and France, as well as more curious numbers like the First Drop The Cream Shiraz from Australia (THB 3190/bottle) or the Grace Chardonnay Yamanashi-Ken from Japan (THB 1840/bottle). There’s also a Cuban cigar selection available for those who like a smoke with their sip, and wine classes are bookable at La Casa Nostra School for a tailor-made masterclass in small groups. Come on a Tuesday to enjoy live jazz, and kick back with a classic like the Masciarelli Villa Gemma Montepulciano (THB 2600/bottle) with nonna-style dishes to pair.
La Casa Nostra, 22 Sathorn 1 Yak 2 (Soi Goethe), Bangkok, +66 2 287 2402, Open daily 11.30am-12am
The Bangkok city classic: Scarlett Wine Bar & Restaurant
It wouldn’t be Bangkok if we didn’t have a wine bar perched atop one of the city’s infinite sky-high rooftops. After all, a Bangkokian’s pride and joy lies in admiring the cityscape, especially so if in the company of food and drink. Scarlett has long been a favourite for vino-loving city dwellers in Silom, located on the 37th floor of the Pullman Hotel G. Between wooden accents and earth tones, it’s a cosy and spacious spot to enjoy a vast selection of wines, with a long central table and more intimate corners for groups of friends. Head to the terrace with a bottle of the exquisite Château Palmer Cabernet Sauvignon (THB 22,000), and drink to the view of the Chao Phraya river just below; or enjoy a classic favourite like the Côtes du Rhône Muscat de Beaumes de Anise (THB 1650/bottle) for a sweet sip to the sunset. Scarlett isn’t as new or as flashy as many of the others on our list, yet much like the gentle whirl of a full-bodied vintage in the glass, proves that it can still provide much to swoon over.
Scarlett Wine Bar & Restaurant, Pullman Bangkok Hotel G, 188 Silom Rd., Bang Rak, Bangkok, +66 96 860 7990, Open Mon-Fri 6pm-11pm; Sat-Sun 5pm-11pm