Taiwan’s Top Five Wine Bars
There are plenty of cool places for wine lovers to discover in Taiwan.
From bubble tea to bao buns, Taiwan is full of amazing edible discoveries. The 23 million citizens in this small subtropical island have long been spoiled for choice at mealtimes. The influence of the Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese cultures all played their part in creating this dynamic food heaven. But it is less well known that Taiwanese wine culture is as rich and vibrant as its cuisine. Here are the top five new and unconventional wine bars that are definitely worth a visit.
1. La Copa Oscura, Taipei
Owner Julianne Wang studied wine in France, Italy and Spain on a Erasmus Mundus Scholarship and fell in love with the latter. She opened this minimalist wine bar in a residential area in Taipei in early 2021 on the same day as the capital’s city government announced its very first lockdown during the pandemic. Their launch party had to be postponed by three months but they've made up for lost time.
La Copa Oscura is arty and Mediterranean at heart. In contrast to the neutral interior design, the charming brick red wall outside created by a local designer makes the space slightly mysterious but extremely Instagrammable. There are over 100 wines from artisan growers all over Spain to choose from, many of which can be ordered by the glass. Open every day from 1pm, La Copa Oscura has a group of loyal female followers who have swapped their working-in-a-coffee shop routine for holding business meetings in this cosy wine bar.
2. CanNature, Taipei
CanNature by renowned sommelier Kenny Lin opened its doors in 2019. A natural wine bar at heart, Kenny lists around 150 wines from small growers who believe in a hands-off winemaking philosophy and making wines with a distinct character. The list is mainly sourced from France, Italy, Spain and Japan complemented by local wines.
CanNature is unique because it encourages people to bring their own food to pair with wines. Kenny is a firm believer in breaking barriers and stereotypes when it comes to wine tasting. By inviting people bring along all sorts of Taiwanese street food, they have discovered some of the most unusual wine pairings that are not found elsewhere in the world.
3. FReNCHIE FReNCHIE, Taichung
Located in central Taiwan, FReNCHIE FReNCHIE follows the concept of 'bistronomy'. By day it is a gastropub, by night , from 9pm it turns into a sophisticated wine bar. Officially opened in September 2021, it has been fully booked ever since. Run by Xavier Tseng, FReNCHIE FReNCHIE cleverly incorporates food, wine and cocktails in one place. The bar is run by top bartender Mark Huang who has a big millennial fan base.
FReNCHIE FReNCHIE is also distinctive for not having a markup on their wines. They have over 100 wines listed for retail prices. With such affordable prices and variety, plus impeccable service in a relaxed atmosphere, it's no wonder guests flood in every day. Well, that is, if you manage to reserve a table.
4. Bon Vivant, Tainan
Tainan is a historical city in the south of Taiwan, where the Dutch first landed in the 17th century. It is also home to Bon Vivant, another wine bar born during the pandemic. Nita Lin studied in Bordeaux and worked in Shanghai for over a decade. In 2020, she returned to her hometown, where she found purely by chance an impressive old house near the local landmark, Fort Provintia, built by the Dutch in 1653. It was love at the first sight and Nita opened the first pure wine bar in Tainan there.
Proudly offering 35 wines by the glass each day, Bon Vivant currently has 160 wines on its list from all over the world. Their snack menu is equally brilliant. Make sure you try the Taiwanese Eight Treasures Meatball which follows a secret recipe from Nita’s mother.
5. Shelly Wine Only, Hualien
Hualien, on the east coast of Taiwan, is famous for its scenic landscape and indigenous Taiwanese culture. However, it has always been a wine desert – until this year when Shelly Li opened the first wine bar in Hualien City two months ago. It has quickly become the talk of the town. Shelly worked as a wine salesperson in Taipei for several years and noticed there was nowhere to drink wine in this beautiful coastal city. When a friend invited her to open a wine bar in Hualien, she didn’t even have any second thoughts.
Shelly likes good and quirky wines, and says Hualien locals are happy to explore styles they have never tried before. She has 10 wines by the glass every day and over 200 wines on the list from all over the world including a Taiwanese sparkling wine made from the native grape Mussan.
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