Bites and bits, shots and sips…

A few quickies…

COX, which became famous for wings and recently added curry to the menu, is closed indefinitely. Will this episode see co-owner Kris Ryan (Saddle, The Rickshaw) take his business elsewhere? Stay tuned, and in the meantime, you can still get those tasty wings at Rickshaw. (Hats off to Trevor, Nick and Kenn for the tip.)

Word has it that China Doll will hold a July 4 party next Wednesday day. As the date falls on ladies night, its free wine and cocktails all night for the girls and a free drink for the U.S. guys. I’ve been waiting on the details and will provide them when in hand.

Wonder Bar will feature drum and bass on Friday and eighties tunes on Saturday, with buy-one, get-one-free drinks before 11 PM. So much for having a jazz bar with quality cocktails

Interview: Don St. Pierre Jr, ASC Fine Wines

ASC Fine WinesDon St. Pierre Jr joins Robert Parker, Richard Sands, Miguel Torres and other global wine players in Decanter magazine’s “2007 Power List.” St. Pierre, who established ASC with his father Don Sr 11 years ago, ranks number 37 on the list of those deemed to have the greatest impact on what people are and will be drinking. He’s the only China-based person, and only one of three in Asia, to make the top 50 (the magazine somehow overlooked yours truly). I interviewed him by email over the weekend…

How does it feel to make that list?

It is a great honor for our company as a whole as well as an indication of how important the world thinks the market for wine in China will one day become.

ASC’s business is in China and you’re the only China-based person to make the list, yet your company doesn’t distribute any Chinese wines? What’s up with that and what’s your take on Chinese grape wines?

The list is about the companies and people that influence what wines are available and consumers’ perceptions of wine – this covers importers, distributors, wineries, winemakers, government, and wine writers. ASC is a wine importer and distributor, so I assume Decanter feels that since we are the largest importer in a market that will one day become a significant consumer of imported wine, what we do now and in the future will influence what consumers drink.

Chinese grape wine quality needs to improve, but there are signs that it is happening. And it will happen more and more, because consumers will demand better and better quality wine, and the companies that can produce that wine will find they have more and more customers.

It seems as though there is an increasing amount of Australian wine in China. Which country’s wine producers are coming on strong, which are stagnating and which are losing out?

France is still the overall leader, but as you point out, Australian wine exports to China are growing quickly. It is however important to note that most of the Australian export boom to China is made up of very inexpensive wines. Of all the important wine-making regions, I think America is stagnating or growing the least versus where it should be.

What are the three most important things to realize about marketing to wine consumers in China?

Focus your efforts on sales channels likely to have consumers interested in and able to purchase the wine you are selling – i.e. wine tastings on Nanjing Xi Lu during Chinese New Year with one million people walking by are not a good idea.

Remember that wine consumers in China are just beginning to understand the basics about wine, so keep your message simple and try to ensure it conveys something the consumers can easily identify with – i.e. don’t compare a wine’s taste to saddle leather or black cherries.

Wine and food cross-marketing / promotions can work.

Not counting the people in the top 50 whose products ASC distributes, which three on that list would you most like to sit down with a bottle of wine, and why?

Richard Sands – from 1991, his company went from a little over 100 million in sales to, in 2007, over 5 billion in sales.

Mel Dick – he runs the most successful wine distribution company in the world, bar none.

Dan Jago – largest buyer of wine in the world (Tesco) and his company is moving into China.

E-Salted: Taipei’s party animal attacks Beijing

As I twitched about Wal-Mart in a fluorescent light-induced daze about six weeks ago, an SMS from E. Salt, one of Taipei’s premier party people, snapped me out of it. She was in Beijing and up for a drink – note to self: there is no such a thing as “a” drink with ES – so I hightailed it out of the hypermarket and headed on my first pub-crawl in heavens knows how long. Such moments force one to think quickly and here’s where I took a visiting pal who likes a decent drink and some fun on a school night:

Q Bar: The deck was tranquil save for one excruciatingly loud woman who peppered tales of her tedious life with four-letter words. I normally oppose capital punishment, but there are exceptions… Anyway, we moved to another part of the bar, and I had an Alfonso Special while ES enjoyed a Dragon Fruit Margarita. Thumbs up to both drinks.

China Doll: The second floor bar was semi-busy and we ran into Peter, who is in the Bourbon, Rye and Whisk(e)y League. ES had a Margarita (not bad), I had the Ai Wan Special (light and safe), and that “risque” video played for, what, the millionth time?

Wonder Bar: My brain wonders if this bar will work in Tongli Studio, my heart says I hope they can figure things out. It has decent seating, music and martinis, the last at 40 kuai. ES, who hails from Wales, said the Margarita was fine. She then impressed one co-owner by breaking into Taiwanese (show-off).

Kokomo: Owner Bill was on hand and we tried his recommended drink, a Pain Killer (note: the effects did not last through the next morning). It was fine, but my favorite Kokomo cocktail thus far is the Original Mai Tai.

Shooters: Bill joined us as we sat outside, watched the rain, and tried a few shots at 10 kuai per (Bill loved the Pink Panties). This was probably a good time to call it a night, but we went to…

The Rickshaw: It was back to Margaritas as we munched our way through medium wings and potato chips drizzled with melted blue cheese and Alfredo sauce. Good times!

Maggies: Bill took off as ES and I finished the night at one of the city’s most famous / infamous / misunderstood bars. She stuck with Margaritas, I had a Budweiser, and we enjoyed the music and people watching as the wee hours grew larger…

All in all, it was a fun night, and proved two things: 1) Beijing’s bar scene is ever-changing, since nearly every spot on this little tour did not exist a year ago; 2) that it’s a good thing E-Salt and I no longer live in the same city or I’d probably be in my grave from trying to keep up with her!

Getting plastered on a ‘hutong catwalk’

Last week, I wrote about a then-upcoming fashion show by Plastered T-shirts , which celebrates things Beijing – Yanjing beer, 1.20 Xiali taxi rides and the subway, among others (see A party that fits to a T). Organizers promised free beer and wine for those donning Plastered wear and yours truly can confirm that this, indeed, was the case.

I’d guess several hundred people were on hand to enjoy those beverages and a “hutong catwalk” fashion show made possible when a car miraculously broke down nearby and blocked traffic. While music throbbed, a half-dozen models took to the street to strut a narrow path between cheering onlookers for about a ten-minute show that delighted a mostly expatriate crowd, amused some of the locals, and angered several cyclists. Ah, such is the hutong fashion world…

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I’m too sexy for this shirt…

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Clothing the masses can afford…

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I wouldn’t be caught dead in that skirt…

(Thanks to Dominic at Plastered for the photos.)

Note: Nanluoguxiang has an amazing number of bars and methinks a fact-finding trip is in order. If anyone can point me toward some of the better spots — Candy Floss is on the list already — I would be much obliged.

Loosen up with some Riesling

Liebe das guten Leben on July 3 as Summergate hosts both a wine tasting and dinner with Ernst Loosen. The fun starts with a tasting at the the Hilton’s Zeta Bar (7-10 PM; 150 kuai) and includes the following wines:

Villa Wolf Pinot Noir 2004
Dr Lo Riesling 2005
Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese 2003

The wine dinner kicks off an hour later in the Hilton’s One East on Third (8 PM~; 590 kuai, plus 15 percent service charge). The wines:

1998 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett
2003 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
2003 Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese
1990 Uerziger Wuerzgarten Riesling Auslese
2004 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Beerenauslese
2003 Bernkasteler Lay Riesling Eiswein

For background on Loosen, check this page. For info on the tasting or dinner, contact Jessie Xiao at 6562-5800 / Jessie.xiao@summergate.com.