Wine appreciation in Laos has certainly taken off in recent years and as a result several wine shops and wine bars have begun opening around the centre of town. Whilst many expatriates regularly drink wine as part of their heritage, local people have now begun to embrace wine and as a result have become a larger consumer of wines in Laos.
Wine 95 is the newest wine bar in Vientiane and has opened up between Jazzy Brick and Jules Classic Bike Rentals. Coincidence? Not at all. Wine 95 is the latest creation of those behind Phimphone Market and Benoni Cafe as well as Vansom Wine Shop. The name is in celebration of the year that the owner first started his wine import business: 1995. Everything these guys do, they do well, and Wine 95 is no exception.
From the curb Wine 95 seems a little daunting with a completely black exterior, somewhat out of place in especially colorful Laos. Being a serious shade, black does show however, that wine is taken seriously here. As you enter, the first thing that catches your eye is a long bar attended by formal looking staff dressed in white shirts and black aprons. Behind them, along the rear wall, bottles of wine are encapsulated in metallic boxes that resemble space-age incubators but which are obviously used to ensure freshness of the wines.
Rather than drink at the bar, my friends and I headed upstairs and took a seat in the second floor lounge area for a little more privacy. Very quiet and cozy, the lounge is painted appropriately in deep yellows offset by a very dark black ceiling and nice matte wooden floorboards. Furniture is faux-elegant featuring dark leather settees, red velvet armchairs and glass-topped trunks in place of tables. Evidently ‘trendily opulent’ is theme of choice at Wine 95, so patrons are expected to know a little about wine (and have the money to pay for it) before sitting down.
A very friendly General Manager, Mr. Patoung, met with us, gave us menus and explained the wines to us. The wines on offer are from all over the world and there is a special tasting system at Wine 95, wherein customers may taste as many wines as they want for 10,000 kip per taste. If a wine is particulary good, you may order a half-glass (50,000- 70,000 kip), full glass (100,000 – 240,000 kip) or bottle (up to 900,000 kip). Wine 95 also offers cheese platters, cold cuts and bar snacks such as peanuts and cashews. Our party nibbled on some cold cuts whilst we decided on our wines.
I’m not a huge wine buff and certainly no expert, so I tasted the Manso de Velasco on Mr. Patoung’s recommendation. I enjoyed it and I followed my taste with a whole glass. The wine complimented the cold cuts superbly and we were very comfortable in our leather sofa aside from the room being somewhat too warm. Although the place takes itself very seriously – wine is even served in Riedel glasses – it remains an intimate place to enjoy a good drop. If wine isn’t your thing you can also choose from a wide and relatively inexpensive range of cocktails, which average around 30,000 kip each.
Wine 95 will be adding its own elegant character to Vientiane’s nightlife, that much is for certain. Their facebook page suggests that special events are to be held in the future, such as piano recitals and jazz concerts which will offer the populace something new. All in all it’s an interesting spot to spend a couple of hours over a nice glass of wine. Well designed and well serviced; it really hits the spot.