At the top of a narrow flight of stairs, a world of flavour awaits at Shiraz Coffee and Wine. By Simon Stanley. Photos by Vinh Dao.
According to Dung Tran, CEO of Shiraz Coffee and Wine, a sleek new wine bar and cafe opposite the Vietcombank Tower, just 5 percent of Vietnamese people understand and enjoy the world’s favourite fruit juice. “Firstly, because of the price,” she explains. “People think that wine is expensive. Secondly, many people don’t yet like the taste. They prefer stronger alcohols like whisky or cognac.”
With one-on-one guidance available for all of their customers, plus regular tasting evenings and private wine lessons and parties, Shiraz is on a serious mission to spread their passion for wine. In doing so, they’re bringing more than just a few good bottles of plonk to Saigon’s table. “At the moment we have 650 different kinds of wine in our collection,” says Dung, “from both the old and new worlds.” Choosing one, therefore, may take some time, but it’ll be well worth it.
Sitting down in Shiraz’s cool indoor bar area (or on the spacious outdoor terrace), the sheer volume of wines on offer can be a little overwhelming. With two parallel banks of shelves running almost the entire length of the room, each divided into country-specific columns, where do you begin?
“We would ask you what flavours you like,” says Dung. “Sweet, sour or somewhere in the middle, for example. We also ask how much you want to spend. My staff can then begin recommending bottles to you.”
Despite appearances, Shiraz functions perfectly well as a wine shop on its own and customers are welcome to drop in to grab a bottle (or six) to go. Prices currently range from VND 255,000 per bottle, to VND 9 million and above, with a very affordable 7 percent added on top if you wish to pop the cork and enjoy your purchase on the premises. Glasses of selected house reds or whites are also sold for just VND 95,000.
“Right now, our customers are enjoying the wines of Chile and Argentina the most,” says Dung, who has been expanding her knowledge of the humble grape for almost 20 years. With frequent trips to the world’s most famous wine producing countries to study and learn from the winemakers themselves, Dung knows her stuff.
With a wide selection of imported cold cuts, pates, cheeses and chocolates also available (again, which Dung and her friendly staff will be more than happy to help pair with your choice of tipple), Shiraz has quickly marked itself out as more than just another downtown bar. “I just love to share my knowledge,” says Dung. When it tastes this good, who can blame her?