The Bar that Wasn't

From its start in the virtual world, No Bar Wine Bar has since become a space that is unconventionally conventional.

          If you are an avid vino fan you may have heard of ‘No Bar Wine Bar,’ launched during the stay-at-home days of Covid-19 back in 2020. The unconventional name was dedicated to an online bottle shop — with geotags in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Koh Tao — specialising in natural wines. It started as a small project by a couple of good friends. “The name was meant to be a joke but not entirely so. Having no physical space was perfect at the time as we wanted to be able to sell to a wide audience,” shares co-founder and filmmaker Natchanon Vana. “Our focus has been on natural wines since day one.”

          There is a (relatively) young natural wine scene in Bangkok, and everyone I have spoken with has agreed that the past few years has been about educating the market about this emerging concept — beyond the pretty labels. Today, in addition to bars, we are seeing more natural wines in five-star hotels and fine dining establishments. But is it a truly growing trend? There is no better place to discuss this than at No Bar Wine Bar’s actual bar — nestled in the still-happening Ari neighbourhood — with owners Vana and Eye Pornchanok Dibdee, the latter a fashion designer and long-time natural wine blogger (Instagram:

          The space has been opened for a few months and I decided to sneak in right after sundown before the crowd pours in. It almost feels like visiting a friend’s home — one with a lot of empty wine bottles. ‘Cosy’ is the right description, and was exactly what Vana and Eye had aimed for. There is also a subtly nostalgic, ‘90s kids vibe — and not the gimmicky kind currently in style. Think: locker-esque cabinets decked with silly stickers, a marble dining set usually seen in your grandparents’ backyard, broken disco balls, and a purple elephant balloon floating lonesomely in a corner. There must have been a party.

          Eye animatedly introduces the bar. “Prior to opening this space, we were doing many events and popups. It was a lot of work for just the two of us, so we started thinking about having our own venue,” she tells us. We wanted to create a welcoming destination where natural wine is considered fun. Vana feels that wine does not need to be complex and wishes to create a place where people can come to expand their horizons. “We want wine to just be wine. We like inclusivity and we want the experience here to be simple,” Eye adds.

          Vana and Eye handpick their bottles, with over 100 labels on the menu. When sourcing wines they look for producers that trigger their curiousity with stories that make the drinking experience more fun. “I have also been especially drawn to the term ‘terroir’ — how a particular region’s climate, soils and terrain affect the overall taste of wine — as I dig deeper into the subject. As a director, I love that it is comparable to how films documents stories,” Vana says. By the bottle or glass options are available, taking turns based on the owners’ mood. “We want our customers to arrive without expectations and with an open mind to explore. But do not call us sommeliers,” Eye laughs. “That sounds ticklish. We’d rather just be bar owners.”

          Small bites are available changing regularly as per the bar’s drink list. I was served sourdough with chicken liver pate and vegan jerky. Moving forward, Vana and Eye would like to put more local flavours on the food menu. “You would be surprised how the funkiness of natural wine goes well with ingredients like shrimp paste (kapi) and chakram leaves,” Vana tells us.

          But beyond the drinking and dining, the two partners — both creative professionals — are looking forward to the experimental aspect of the space. “We wish to explore possibilities and see where creativity takes us,” Eye shares. Another of their projects, Soirée, hosts unconventional wine-and-dine sit-downs with their chef friends. As such, fans of No Bar Wine Bar can expect to see more collaborations with culinary talents as well as artists in the future.

          By the time I get ready to leave around 8 PM on a Thursday night, it was a full house. Chatter fills the air and laughter is exchanged by the bar between the hosts and their customers. Smooth hip hop jazz plays in the background, just loud enough to keep things mellow.

          No Bar Wine Bar is open Wednesday to Sunday from 6 PM to midnight. The bottle shop also operates on the same days from noon onwards and delivery is available.