By Jim Boyce | Italian wine bar Vesuvio is mere days from
erupting onto the scene opening atop sibling restaurant Bottega in Sanlitun’s Nali Studio. Vesuvio offers a snug warmly lit space with a bar at the near end, four small tables (soon to arrive) in the middle, and a wall-length padded seat at the far end that made me imagine, as I perched there, being in the waiting room of an upscale Italian train station and enjoying a Negroni. A Negroni is about the only cocktail option at this place, although a dozen vermouths and gins such as Mare and Four Pillars mean there are plenty of combinations to try, with barrel-aged versions soon to follow. Anyway, while the menu also includes a trio of beers from Labi in Italy and a compact whiskey range that covers four countries, the focus here is wine.
That list is about 60 percent Italian, with the 50 options including strong nods to heavyweight regions like Tuscany and Piedmont as well as choices from Puglia, Sicily and other areas. Bottles start at rmb318, with the La Marchesana Aglianico a good example.
The rest of the menu includes five to ten options each for France, for Spain and Portugal, for Australia and New Zealand, and for the rest of world. The cost is similar, with Laya Grenache from Spain at rmb320, although you can certainly find other intriguing, and pricier, picks. The eight-bottle enomatic machine means you can also expect wine by the glass. As for food, Bottega’s tasty pizzas won’t be available but there will be antipastos and other choices.
It’s now just a matter of opening the doors, and that’s basically a matter of the tables and chairs arriving, which should happen any day now. But even last night, it was relaxing to simply lean on the bar or perch on that long seat. In any case, here’s hoping this is one more step to giving Italian wine a more solid footing in China. The country is a global wine powerhouse but has a mere five percent of the import market here, despite the popularity of Italian luxury goods, the ubiquity of pizza and pasta, and the high ranking of Italy as a tourist destination. Vesuvio, along with fellow Sanlitun-area Italian wine bar Buona Bocco, can hopefully change that for the better.