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November 5, 2009

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Bomb shelter for trendy wines

AN old Hongqiao bomb shelter, complete with steel blast doors and air purification system, is the perfect place to store wines, and taste them too. Cushla Norman takes a sip. A Hongqiao area bomb shelter housing 45,000 bottles of international wines wouldn't be such a bad place to run for cover if disaster struck.

Wine importer Ruby Red, run by locals and a New Zealander, uses a late 1960s-built underground bomb shelter to store their wines before they hit the stores, restaurants, hotels and people's homes. It's also the headquarters.

But according to one of the company's directors, Kylie Bisman, a bomb shelter for a wine cellar isn't such an unusual sight in Shanghai.

"You are never original in China," she says, someone's already doing the same thing somewhere else.

The 800-square-meter shelter comes with its own steel blast doors - one weighs 1.5 tons - and an air purification system used to remove gases, which Ruby Red uses every day to circulate air.

Bisman says bomb shelters were built according to grades - the lower-grade shelters for more minor attacks, the higher-grade for serious warfare.

It's no surprise that this Zunyi Road shelter, with its 5-meter-thick concrete ceiling and 2-meter-thick walls, is top grade.

In fact, the cellar is below the water mains, and the sewerage and water mains can be sealed off if needed.

"It's fully self-contained. A hundred people can last down here for 10 days," says Bisman.

The company chose the shelter as its headquarters to replicate the wine caves of Europe because it has an ideal temperature for wine, ranging between 16 to 20 degrees Celsius.

In the underground cellar are 1,000 different wine labels, with a particularly large selection of reds.

Bisman says red wine is popular with the Chinese because it contains tannins - as does tea - making it easy to adopt.

She says Bordeaux reds have a strong following in Shanghai, but a trend is developing among Bordeaux drinkers to experiment with reds, particularly Pinot Noir from Burgundy in France's interior.

Burgundy reds have a lower alcohol content, are more restrained, not as fruity and go well with roast duck, says Bisman.

Her other picks for hearty winter reds are Hollick Shiraz (Australia) and Abadal Spanish Tepperrino.

As for the whites, she says a Riesling goes best with local cuisine, because it has a good balance of acidity to cut through the food, whether it be oily or sweet and not distract from the flavors.

Ruby Red holds monthly bilingual classes for beginners, and their wines are available for individual purchase from 35 yuan (US$5) to 13,000 yuan a bottle.

Ruby Red Wine Cellar

Address: 41B, Tianshan No. 2 Residential Compound, Zunyi Rd (near Tianshan Rd)

Tel: 6234-2249


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