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Dr. Wine

Jan 29, 2010
by Oliver Greene

Area: Dr Wine is making an ideological stand on Fumin Lu between the twin beasts of No.88 to the South and its rival-cum-brother in poor taste, Fame, to the North. It stands defiant, or rather crouches – its two floors waiting to rendezvous with the rest of the wine bar battalion it has come to save. The sky-blue colored Japanese restaurant Makoto is immediately to its left as you look at it, and Pho Real and The Herb Store are on the opposite side of the street. Just listen for the whispered plotting of the French Resistance and you’ll find it.

What is it: Enoteca, Just Grapes, and others like them – the cosmopolitan vanguard who first launched a bar war two or three years ago for the soul of downtown Shanghai – took a knock when No.88 and the Provinces struck back. Wine bars, so quickly cool, suddenly lost ground to the heavy artillery of men singing on stages and girls in short skirts. Well, Dr Wine is counter attacking with a new strategy taken straight out of its enemy’s armory: fun. First there’s that name, which in truth could belong to a special wine counter in the corner of No.88. Then there’s the size – it’s big, like a cross between a wine bar and a scrubbed-up pub. And finally there are the toilets, which deserve a special mention all of their own. It’s like the classic children’s novel (and film and DVD boxset and videogame) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, except you reach a lavatory, rather than Narnia.

Atmosphere: Ok, ok, it’s still a wine bar, not Disney. But the owners have created a pretty relaxed feel. Apparently they salvaged half of the interior from a house being torn down in Shanghai, so the floor boards were re-milled from its roof beams and the walls constructed from old grey bricks (those thin ones where you get the name of the manufacturer visible on the side). Another wall on the first floor behind the bar is a pile of wine bottles the designers re-recycled from the recycling industry. Tables for two and chairs on the second floor are simple wood, as is a huge long table with matching benches aimed at birthdays or sharing; but there are a few upholstered corners and old pieces of furniture to make it warm and gentlemen-friendly. In fact the whole space is pretty masculine.

Damage: One of the owners, Vincent Landais, is a sommelier by profession who has worked for Daniel Boulud in New York and Alain Ducasse in Paris, so no lightweight selection this. If you want to splurge you can. There is even a temperature-controlled Grand Cru storage room on the second floor. But the top end is balanced by the impressive bottom end. Before opening this place Landais was a wine importer to China, and Dr Wine (a la Enoteca) is also going to import some of its wine directly, removing the middle man and giving customers a very decent selection around the ¥100-150 mark. Expect unusual grape varieties and wines you’ve never seen before in Shanghai. Oh, they also have a kitchen.

Who’s going: Seemed to be all French and the French wine industry at that, albeit in the first week of opening. As word gets around and people fed up of not getting a table at Enoteca see how much space there is, this place is going to fill up with young wine drinkers, middle aged wine drinkers, afterwork wine drinkers and probably even weekend afternoon wine drinkers. It’s easygoing enough probably to get some non-wine drinkers too. The war has not been lost.

177 Fumin Lu,
near Julu Lu

5403 5717


Daily, 6pm-2am; expanding to lunch post-CNY

Wine by the glass, 38rmb-55rmb; by the bottle, 118rmb and up; croque monsieur, 68rmb; pizzas, 48-88rmb
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