Surprise, a new wine bar has opened in Jingan. This one’s on Yuyuan Lu and unlike, say, Burdigala, round the corner, or Uva, also nearby, Wine Connection centres on value and breadth rather than a specific grape or region. The owner is Shanghainese Mitchell Mu, who owns a wine-importing business. His far-reaching menu gives new and old world wines a fairly even keel, plus a good white-to-red balance, too. Most of the familiar players are present and correct – Bordeaux, Cotes du Rhones and co – but there’s some less exposed grapes, too, such as oft-underrated zinfandel, via Francis Coppola Diamond Collection (390RMB/bottle) or Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi (170RMB/bottle) – Grace Vineyard gets a cameo, too.
Probably its biggest distinction, though, is price. Bottles for around the 200RMB mark are gleefully not hard to come by in this neighbourhood but Mu sinks lower still with a bright, acidic Callia Alta Syrah-Malbec from Argentina for 110RMB/bottle. Also fairly assertive, with more character than the average cheapo plonk, is the Domaine du Prieure D’Amilhac cabernet sauvignon, again for 110RMB (both available by the glass for 25RMB alongside around a dozen other by-the-glass red or whites). Elsewhere, bottles hew to more evolved, bolder palates who don’t necessarily shop by price: Bordeaux begins at 190RMB for a Malbat and tops at 1,900RMB for a 2006 Domaine des Chezeaux Griottes-Chambertin from Burgundy.
Food, too, shows slight verve if not imagination: a reuben sandwich (70RMB), with house-baked rye bread, peppery pastrami and sauerkraut needs a more potent mustard but is otherwise a definite pass. Rather than a bar, the atmosphere is café-like and subdued but, ultimately, the crux of it rests on this: a bottle of wine and a good meal for two for little over 200RMB. That’s a surprise we can definitely live with.
By Alexander Barlow