ASC Managing Partner Don SAINT-PIERRE Junior in one of two private rooms available only to members of The Wine Residence, Shanghai's newest wine attraction inaugurated on 15 December 2007.
The Wine Residence, and the houses around it on Jiangyin Road, had 1,700 square metres of underground tunnels which were dug a long time ago. Naturally, these were god-send for storing wine.
The underground cellar stocks some of the finest wines in the world and serves not just the needs of Wine Cellar members but also patrons and diners of Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen, which are open to the public.
Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen only operates for dinner but is open to the public as well as members of the Cellar Club. Together with a private room, capacity is 58 people. Top right picture is of the "Reidel Room", the glassware brand distributed by ASC.
The newest wine attraction in Shanghai is The Wine Residence. Yet, guests who pass through its portals in the heart of the bustling city are often heard to whisper "the area reminds me so much of Old Shanghai".
Inaugurated on 15th December 2007 by ASC Fine Wines, a leading wine distributor in China, The Wine Residence was originally conceptualised as a venue in which ASC would conduct training for their hotel and restaurant on-trade customers.
"At the beginning, the main drive behind The Wine Residence was to provide training to our trade clients. We used to have a room in our office where such training was conducted to familiarise our customers with our products. But we soon ran out of space. At the same time, I also felt that it would be more productive to have the training conducted in a third venue that was outside the place of work of our customers and outside the ASC office," ASC Managing Partner Don SAINT-PIERRE Junior revealed on a cool winter day on 18 December 2007 when this interview took place.
"At the same time, our private clients represent 13% of our revenue. These clients also have demand for wine services over and above just keeping their private stocks for them. Corporate clients, including big equity investors, for example, increasingly see giving wine training for some of their friends/customers as that which differentiate them from their competition."
Saint-Pierre went on to inform that just the night before this interview, Jean-Guillaume PRATS of Chateau Cos d'Estournel had been on hand to conduct just one such tasting (followed by dinner) for a small private group.
FIVE-YEAR LEASE FROM FAMOUS ARTIST
ASC has leased 57 Jiangyin Road from GU Wenda, a Chinese contemporary artist who migrated to the United States of America in 1987. Shanghainese by birth, Gu and his American wife Kathryn SCOTT (an interior designer) had bought the house in 2004. Scott then spent the next three years renovating it.
In Saint-Pierre's own words, "When we took over, we just came in and 'wine-ise' it".
There was also a god-send from above, albeit located in the ground.
Incredibly, Number 57 and those around it, had 1,700 square metres of underground tunnels. Naturally, when Saint-Pierre saw the tunnels, he immediately realised they were made-to-measure for The Wine Residence. One of the biggest houses in the neighbourhood, 57 Jiangyin Road was built in 1906 for a German family. It was later sold to a Chinese family in 1921 which then left the country in the late 1940s. After that, it became a nursery/kindergarten. Even today, its neighbour (at the back) is a hostel.
The temperature-controlled underground cellar is home to 180 wine lockers that can each hold 36 bottles. The lockers are sold as part of a membership package priced at an annual fee of RMB25,000 (2,500 Euros). For a run-down of membership privileges, please refer to "How to Become a Cellar Club Member" box story on next page.
The Wine Residence is surrounded by modern, ambitious skyscrapers. Sipping wine in any of the rooms is like being cocooned in an oasis. You have to pinch yourself real hard to believe that you are actually in downtown Shanghai (the JW Marriott Hotel is just a cork or screw-cap throw away and People's Square round another corner). If pinching doesn't work, try another bottle of Bollinger, which is distributed by ASC.
WINE TRAINING ROOM & RESTAURANT
The Wine Residence also has a "Reidel Room". This is essentially a showroom for the famous glassware brand which is distributed by ASC. On the top third floor is a small training room, seating capacity of eight, where WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) accredited classes are conducted.
There's also a restaurant in The Wine Residence. Sub-leased to an independent operator, Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen only operates for dinner but is open to the public as well as members of the Cellar Club. The restaurant wine list is dominated by wines from ASC but also allows "BYO" at a corkage of RMB200 (this is waived in the case of members). The capacity of the restaurant is 58 (this includes a private room with a capacity for eight diners). Owned by restaurateur Philippe HUSER, the German chef is Stephane STILLER, who had originally come out as chef of Club Shanghai (a beautiful but, unfortunately, poorly patronised French restaurant on the 4th floor of the historic Shanghai Concert Hall at 523 Yan'an Dong Road, opened by former Hong Kong screen actress Lily HO).
At the time of this interview (just three days after The Wine Residence was inaugurated on 15 December 2007), Don Saint-Pierre Junior envisaged there may be some tweaking of membership privileges to The Wine Residence when he admitted that "this is still a work in progress". One thing, though, is not in doubt. The Wine Residence has added a new dimension to the enjoyment of wine in Shanghai. If it proves to be well-received, we can expect a few more such residences sprouting up in other major Chinese cities.
HOW TO BECOME A CELLAR CLUB MEMBER
Annual Membership Fee RMB25,000 (2,500 Euros)
Member's Privileges include:
- An underground, temperature-controlled locker, that can hold 36 bottles of wine (there are a total of 180 such lockers)
- Discounts of between 20 and 30% on wines from ASC
- First access to wines of limited production such as Trimbach Clos Ste. Hune Riesling
- First access to events organized by ASC
- Complimentary use, on a first-come first-served basis, of the facilities at The Wine Residence such as, for example, two private rooms which are reserved only for the use of members
- Waived corkage charge of wines bought from the ground floor bar when such bottles are taken up to the restaurant on the first floor (the restaurant is not owned by ASC but is a sub-leased tenant)
- Monthly report of stock of wines in the locker
Apart from being a major importer of Bordeaux Classified Growths, ASC is also exclusive distributor in China, including of the following wines:
- Brown Brothers
- Leeuwin Estate
- Saltram Estate
- Wolf Blass
- Champagne Bollinger
- Champagne Laurent-Perrier
- Clarendelle - Clarence Dillon
- E. Guigal
- Henri Bourgeois
- Louis Jadot
- Mas de Daumas Gassac
- Robert Skalli
- Angelo Gaja
- Michele Chiarlo
- Clos Henri
- Matua Valley
- Caves Allianca
- Alvaro Palacios
- Bodegas Chivite
- Marques de Riscal
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
- Beringer Vineyards
- Chateau Souverain
- Chateau St Jean
- Chateau Ste. Michelle
- Columbia Crest
- Joseph Phelps