A city that rarely sleeps, Hong Kong with its permanent party glad rags is the spiritual home of the cocktail, and with its heat and humidity the natural home of the ice-cold beer. It isn't hard to find a bar specialising in sake, whiskey or even mezcal, but until recently wine hadn't made much of an impact outside of the high-end restaurants run by globetrotting celebrity chefs. That situation is changing by the day with a new wave of wine bars landing on the island, bringing the gospel of semillon, chablis, pinot noir and syrah to a grateful populace. Here's where to head next time the grape beckons…
Subscribing to the KISS ethos (keep it simple, stupid) this recent arrival to the wine bar scene has a chalkboard roster of ever-changing Gallic wines and cheeses, supplemented by an equally tight menu of classics such as steak tartare. Run by an expat Frenchman (didn't you guess?), this cute little spot is a non-intimidating mothership from which to launch your knowledge of Cotes du Rhone while going face down in a melting Comte.
16 Elgin Street, Central, facebook.com/LaFromagerieHK
A hardworking delicatessen, bar and restaurant, Cochin stretches along the lower part of Peel Street in the trendy netherworld between the districts of Sheung Wan and Central, and manages to nail the brief-in-triplicate. Come for the French food of chef Renaud Marin (so French it hurts, you'll find lamb pot au feu and Brittany red mullet with confit lemon gremolata, as well as a truly excellent cheese program thanks to a whole bunch of imports from the renowned Marchand Brothers) and stay for a wine list that causes no trouble with its affordability and good range of by-the-glass options, for those who like to graze rather than commit to a whole bottle. Or just sit in the bar and smash a mini rabbit burger with a glass of La Vie en Rose rosé.
26 Peel Street, Central, cochin.hk
The Hong Kong offshoot of the Sydney enoteca sticks wisely to the formula of wine-with-food rather than vice versa, although the food offering in Central is more substantial (albeit still Italian, and gutsy). But we're here for the wine, and it delivers in spades, with an emphasis on Italian drops, naturally, and with a skew towards low-intervention and biodynamic. It can be an arcane subject, so another tick in 121BC's favour is the sommelier who can actually sell the stuff. Bravo.
42-44 Peel Street, Central, 121bc.com.hk
DiVino Wine Bar & Restaurant
They claim to have the largest selection of wines by the glass of any independent operator in Hong Kong, and with eight choices of Champagne and sparkling, 18 whites and 27 reds we're in no position to argue (although what's with the measly two choices of rosé?). The list is vast, global, and affordable down the shallow end, although it soon reaches into the stratosphere, and it has a page of cheat notes about food matching as well. The Italian menu is certainly a wine-friendly document, with Italian classics such as vitello tonnato and an A-Z of pasta.
73 Wyndham Street, Central, divinogroup.com/restaurats/divino
Steak tartare at La Cabane. Photo: Supplied
The platonic ideal of the French wine bar, right in the middle of Central, La Cabane dives deep into its natural wine brief with a list showcasing around 200 mostly French wines, many from ultra-boutique producers. Complete with a faux French village rustic chic setting, it's a favourite with wine-loving expats thanks to its relaxed charm and the owners' wine knowledge. The menu is so Gallic it practically comes out twirling its moustache – fried frogs' legs, snails and mushrooms on fried potato, boudin noir and root vegetables – and you can grab a bottle to-go (and maybe a hunk of Roquefort) from their nearby wine cellar, at 97 Hollywood Road.
62 Hollywood Road, Central, lacabane.hk
Tai Ping Shan
208 Duecento Otto
A New York-style Italian restaurant in a former meat storage warehouse, this trendy spot in up-and-coming Tai Ping Shan has pizza credentialed by the AVPN (otherwise known as the Naples-based pizza police) and a globetrotting wine list with its heart in Italy and a well-thumbed passport. Upstairs you'll find the more intimate dining room, but grab a seat in the buzzing bar area for a bowl of pasta and a glass of nebbiolo. Perfetto.
208 Hollywood Road, Tai Ping Shan, 208.com.hk
Ham & Sherry boasts 50 sherry labels. Photo: Supplied
Ham & Sherry
If fortified wine's your thing (and if it is, congratulations – you're totally hip to the trend curve), Ham & Sherry is the place to be. The tapas bar from British super chef Jason Atherton lays claim to Asia's biggest sherry list, with 50 labels across all range of varieties and styles, and the Spanish-soaked wine list is no slouch either. Just line up the plates of jamon and keep it coming.
1-7 Ship Street, Wan Chai, hamandsherry.hk
Le Quinze Vins
Originally opened in Paris, then Wan Chai, then most recently landing in Central, these two ultra-authentic wine shop-slash-bars tap into the island's appetite for all things French and drinkable. It's certifiably a wine bar – which will become immediately apparent when viewing the huge 1000-strong range of everything from village wines to grand cru, all served in grape-appropriate glassware – so don't come expecting a three-course dinner, but Le Quinze Vins will keep the hunger pangs at bay with platters of charcuterie and cheese.
9 Swatow Street, Wan Chai (also 32 Gage Street, Central), facebook.com/LQVHK
This article brought to you by the Hong Kong Tourism Board