A new wine bar and bistro opened last March in a heritage building in Yangon’s historical quarter and it has the city’s most well-selected collection of wines for sale. Marco’s Cellar is located in a former shophouse which was part of a major renovation project under the guidance of conservation group Yangon Heritage Trust. This in mind, I was eager to see inside. Through tall glass doors, checker black and white floor tiles, oak barrel display tables and floor-to-ceiling shelves of wine give it a distinctly bodega touch. Further inside the shop, instead of the real thing, brick-pattern wallpaper lines the walls: conservation restrictions did not allow for the plasterwork to be removed in order to expose the brick.
But that’s enough about design – onto the wine!
The wine menu boasts a whopping 84 varieties of wine from the familiar wine regions in France, Spain, Argentina, USA, Australia and South Africa and New Zealand and includes a few sparkling, rosé and dessert wine options. If you thought you were in for a journey in wine tasting you may be disappointed though, as only a four of the wines are available by the glass and there is no wine-tasting menu on offer as of yet.
Bottles are priced from K31,000 for a Californian wine ‘Woodbridge’ (2015) which is available in chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon varieties of grape and is good value.
On the other end of the scale, the Napa Valley ‘Opus One’ cabernet sauvignon blend (2012) goes for K550,000 a bottle. Between these, there is a seemingly uncountable offering of well-chosen wines from both small vineyards and the largest estates alike. Marco’s Cellar offers a monthly promotion with certain brands of wine discounted to K20,000 per bottle. Considering the size and spread of the menu, for the best experience, it is recommended to invite a few wine-loving friends to share a selection of bottles.
Both upstairs and downstairs seating areas are atmospheric with dimmed lighting and modern, sleek furniture. The long benches and booths are a call for groups of friends to come and sip and chat. On our visit, the music was a little too loud and modern and didn’t suit the ambience as well as some light jazz would.
The food menu has European influences and includes some thoughtfully flavoursome bites that go particularly well with the wines such as the cheese plate with blue cheese, brie, mozzarella and cheddar. My friend and I chose pasta dishes – comfort food for the rainy day we were hiding from. The creamy penne al funghi was rich and filling. My friend’s aglio olio gambero pasta dish with fresh seafood was a rather small portion and left her wanting more. We accompanied the dishes with San Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. This is a well-balanced and elegant wine with notes of plum and berries and went down well with the pastas.
Marco’s Cellar was established by a group of three wine enthusiasts – two Myanmar repats and a Singaporean who all wanted a bite of the action in the booming Yangon food and beverage scene. The shop on Merchant Road is the storefront of a larger wine importing and distribution company of the same name. The location was chosen for the high footfall of locals and foreigners working and living in the area as well as the high number of tourists who wander around the area taking in the rich colonial architecture.
Marco’s also offers a wine delivery service and plans are in the works to hold wine appreciation workshops on a monthly basis. As brave a move opening a wine bar in Yangon is, Marco’s Cellar has executed it well and this is due, in no small amount, to the expert wine selecting that goes on behind the scene. We agreed we would have to come back again to try more wine varieties, and next time to bring a bigger group along with us.