By Charles Lawrence
Don’t be lulled into thinking you won’t find fine wine in Malaysia. Yes, it is a Muslim nation, but no, the rules aren’t restrictive to the flow of wine. The country’s forward thinking and progressive leaders believe in diversity and strive to maintain a respect for all beliefs and individuals, including those who like to sip and savour wine.
As the trading hub and vibrant lifestyle center, it’s not surprising to find a plethora of wine friendly establishments throughout the capital. Like the ginormous Petronas Towers, fine wine appears to have a similarly shiny future, with wine bars, wine-focused dining establishments, and specialty shops sprawling across the city rather like vines along trellises. There are choices for all budgets and consumers; if wine is sought, you shan’t go wanting.
The islands and beaches
Malaysia’s islands are highly developed so there will be no difficulty slaking your thirst although the selections will be more limited than in KL. Most resorts will have acceptable wine lists, but if like me, choice is paramount, then stop at a KL wine shop to stock up first. With the warm and balmy temps I recommend you seek cool, crisp whites, and shy away from powerful reds. This goes down well with deliciously fresh Malaysia seafood.
Wine Venues KL
Checking in at an international hotel chain? Then you’ll have no problem ordering a bottle of vino, but you haven’t just flown here to sit in the safe sterile confines of a hotel surely? As an adventure-seeking traveler you should get out to see and taste the world’s wonderfully rich cultural pageant. The city has plenty of lively venues that you definitely don’t want to miss.
Since 1995, this has been a spot for live jazz music by truly talented local musicians. What’s more, they’ve got you covered with a lengthy list of vinous quaffers to satisfy exacting oenophiles as well as folks out to wet their whistles. Top this off with a super chic, modern designed interior, and you’ve got the setting for a fabulous night on the town.
A number of locations in KL.
Bistro Spago Wine Bar
Okay, so this place doesn’t have a website, but they do have a decently priced, adventurous wine list along with good jazz. Yes, I rate jazz paired with wine.
A-0-4 Megan Phileo Promenade, 189 Jalan Tun Razak, Tel. +603 2161 9169
Cilantro Restaurant & Wine Bar
Not just wine, but seriously fine food is on call here. Chef Takashi Kimura heads a kitchen that cooks up creative Japanese and Malaysian fare. The wine list is well crafted to handle the cuisine, and they have no corkage fee if you want to bring something, however you might want to call ahead and check it isn’t already on their list. You may also want your group to fork out about RM25 per person to cover the cost of service and glassware; worth it for the extraordinary food and it’s a fair policy.
MiCasa All Suite Hotel, 368-B, Jalan Tun Razak, Tel: +603 2179 8082
Yet another food venue with Japanese influenced menu items, Hakka is bit different from Cilantro in that is a less formal, slightly more raucous and rambunctious destination, serving casual fare with style, all with regularly scheduled jazz performances. Yes…I say it again, I love jazz and wine together. Speaking of wine, the list is more than enough to satiate your thirst for a variety of vino, so get on in and have a bit of fun with locals and expats who call KL home.
Lot 2.05, Level 2, Menara Hap Seng, Jalan P.Ramlee, Tel. +603 2078 9908
Last, but most definitely not least, is Sage, where Malaysia’s love affair with the finer sides of cuisine and wine are perfectly paired to please even the most demanding foodie oenophile’s desires. The wine list is a rarity in that it doesn’t gouge the wallet. They offer exclusives not found at other venues, and with prices close to retail, you’ll be able to have a few bottles with your meal. What a deal!
The Gardens Residences Level 6, The Gardens, Mid Valley City, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Tel. 603 2268 1328.
Giovino is an excellent source for fine wine to go. It’s also a casual osteria and deli. Shop here to procure all the necessities before heading to the isles! Changkat Bukit Bintang, Tel. 0321 41 1131.
Wine Cellar, while not in the CBD but the suburban area Bangsar, is a unique retailer of fine wine, offering over 500 labels. A true oenophile’s delight! Various locations, Tel. 03 2093 1919.
Wine2u is an online sales outlet that can deliver your wine to locations throughout the nation, so if time is short, go online and order your vino before you get to Malaysia. Tel. 1800 222 180.
Having grown up in Northwest Florida and Wyoming, then pursing an MS in Social Science Education, C. Lawrence’s road to wine hasn’t been as direct as some. However, in 2006 he decided to pursue his passion, thus embarking on his own, continuing journey of vinous discovery. Since then, Charles has attained WSET certification, operated Vendimia Wine Bar in Hakuba Japan, worked as a wine consultant for hotels/restaurants in Japan and Thailand, spent a harvest in California’s Russian River Valley at Porter Creek Vineyards, and is now enrolled in the Bordeaux Ecole du Management Wine MBA. After nearly 12 years in Japan, Charles is off to Bangkok where he will be working with wine. He blogs on www.asiancorrespondent.com
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website