If you live in Vientiane, you'll already have an appreciation for our microcosm of good food, great restaurants and delightful wine from around the world.
I know I do.
But I felt it was necessary to explore where exactly to buy all this good wine in Vientiane. So I took on the arduous task of research and tasting, to bring you... Where to buy the best wine in Vientiane.
I'll inject a caveat here and say that there's isn't really any such thing as the "best" wine. Sure, you can have a great year, a perfect vintage, an expert winemaker. But that's a lot of elephant poo if you don't like it. Wine, like art, is subjective and we all have our own opinions and tastes. Which is absolutely fine.
So, here we go in no particular order...
The best Latino wine - That Dam Wines
Wines from Chile and Argentina are typically big, flavoursome reds, like Carménère, Syrah (Shiraz) or Malbec. A side story on Carménère - it was part of the 6 original Bordeaux reds but was wiped out in France by that pesky Phylloxera bug. It was thought extinct till by chance it turned up innocently thriving in Chile. It's now their signature grape.
You'll find the best selection of Latino wine at That Dam Wines. There are loads of other wines from around the world too, including a selection of French Grand Cru wines, if money is no object.
They also have a great selection of speciality wine glasses, including Riedel, at a much better price than you'll likely find outside Laos. As well, That Dam has a restaurant next door where you can sample their wines over a nice meal.
That Dam Wines is next to the That Dam stupa downtown, near the former US Embassy. There's parking out front.
The best Italian wine - AEnoteca
Italian wine is typically enjoyed with food - those bold reds and feisty whites go nicely with pizza and pasta. AEnoteca sells the best range of Italian wine in Vientiane, including a great selection of Prosecco and sparkling varieties. In fact, pop in there day or night and you'll be presented with a glass of delicious, cold Prosecco. It's a nice touch and always goes down a treat!
AEnoteca is a wine shop with a difference - it's also a wine bar. Of an evening, the long table down the middle becomes crowded with patrons and the deli in the corner (all the ingredients are imported from Italy, naturalmente) gets busy.
AEnoteca is part of the Italian trio with Acqua and Ai Capone, so you can order your dinner from their menus and it's delivered to your table. Choose any bottle of wine in the shop, and if you don't finish it, take it home. Brava!
AEnoteca is on Khounboulom Road downtown. Turn right at the traffic light intersection with Rue Samsenethai and it's another down 200m on your right. Street parking only.
The Best Australian wine - MEG / Gecko
Aussies love a nice glass of wine, bless them. They're particularly partial to a big ass Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, or a Tasmanian sparkling wine. (Yes, it has to be Tasmanian, it's the best).
You'll find all of these and more at MEG. Australian wine in Vientiane used to be imported by Gecko Wines but the business was sold at the end of 2017 to MEG (Market Expansion Group).
MEG supplies Australian wine to shops, hotels and restaurants and they've opened a small storefront that you can visit as well. It's currently still in the "soft opening" phase but will soon stock meat, cheese, deli and other products too.
And let's not forget the awesome wines of our Kiwi cousins - you'll find a few great New Zealand tipples at MEG too.
MEG is off Rue Phonsinuan, near Dongpayna, down the soi directly opposite the Lao Golden Hotel. The building is about 200m on your right.
The best Spanish wine - Laolive
What's not to love about Spanish wine? It's as bold and fearless as a conquistador. Viva el español! (Okay, I'm getting carried away).
But really, Spanish wines are fun, lighter style reds that are easy to drink. And you'll find a nice little selection of them at Laolive. Think Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache) and of course, the sparkling wine, Cava. Plus some serious Spanish gin.
Laolive (pronounced Lao Olive) is a little, unmarked shop off Khouvieng road that you will have passed a thousand times and not known it. But its size is a misnomer because it supplies imported Spanish deli products to loads of Vientiane restaurants (such as Pimenton).
At Laolive you'll find several types of Manchego cheese, jamon, chorizo, figs, olives, olive oil... and did I mention cheese? You won't leave this shop empty handed.
A good selection of Laolive wines and deli products are also now available from Chanmaly cafe.
Laolive is in an unmarked 2-storey green and beige building on the unpaved road that runs parallel to Khouvieng, between a Lao school and the Corebeer Brewhouse.
The best French wine
And at last we come to... drumroll... French wine!
It's a tall order to lay claim to selling the best French wine in Vientiane, so this one must be a draw... between That Dam, Vansom and Cafe Vanille.
Vansom is a wine shop and tasting room downtown. They have a good selection of international wines, particularly French. There's also a deli and cafe close by where you can park.
The wines at the front are nicely arranged by their depth and flavour - rich and powerful reds, medium reds, and so on - which makes it easy for non wine buffs to browse and find what they want. They even have a discount section; a rarity in Laos which has yet to embrace the marketing appeal of bargain shopping. Upstairs is a private tasting and event space.
Vansom is downtown on Rue Samsenethai on the block past Kua Lao restaurant. No parking out the front.
Cafe Vanille is a well known cafe and bakery. Their side shop has had a few transformations over the years but the latest is the best - a deli that sells a nice range of French cheeses, meats and, naturally, wine.
They have a small but quality selection of French wines from the Alsace, Bordeaux and Loire regions, among others. The owner is from the Loire Valley himself and visits annually, so a bottle or two from this region is likely to be just the thing.
Cafe Vanille is on Rue Bourichane near the Thai consulate.
The best "pick the label" wine - Simuang Minimart
And finally, I have to give a shout out to the minimarts which also sell wine, and the best of them is definitely Simuang. They have a hearty choice of wines from across the world so if you prefer to choose the bottle with the nicest label, you'll have a few at your disposal!
All of the minimarts sell wine for their falang customers but do read the label, as well as admire it! The annual Beaujolais Nouveau from Bordeaux, for example, is designed to be drunk young; a 2016 bottle on the shelf is best avoided. Not all wine ages well!
I hope you enjoyed this insight into the wonders of wine in Vientiane. Have I missed a spot? Let me know via social media or in the comments below. Salut!