An Authentic Taste of Italy at Veeno, Quartermile

There are few things in life more comforting, or more deeply satisfying, than a nice glass of wine sipped alongside a lovingly prepared cheeseboard. In fact, this sounds like my ideal night in. But as far as my student budget can stretch, this usually means that I'm stuck buying a "slightly better than average" bottle of wine, and find myself deliberating over whether the hefty price tag of Tesco's Finest cheese is worth it.

But this weekend, I was able to live my continental fantasy when I was kindly invited to review a wine tasting at Veeno, the Italian wine cafe.

Tucked away among the imposing modern high-rises and charming castle-like apartments of Quartermile, Veeno takes on the likeness of a local neighborhood wine bar. Cozy, quaint, and welcoming from start to finish. But Veeno is, in fact, a national chain boasting 14 locations across the UK. So you're always in arms reach of a good glass of wine.

At first glance, the Quartermile space seems small; the large bar in the center appears to take up most of the room. But they've really utilized what's left of the space, placing snug booths along the walls, and barrel tables in the nooks at either end of the building- you can even rent a private tasting room tucked away at the back for special events. Sprinkled with fairy lights and oozing old-world charm (these are old-world wines, after all), Veeno's atmosphere will certainly get you in the mood for a romantic night of wine tasting.

We were offered the Selezione tasting- a full lineup of 5 premium wines, all sourced from Caruso & Minini, their family vineyard in Sicily, plus a sharing board of meats and cheeses (or, spuntini). The tasting was structured such that our charming waiter, Giorgio, would guide us through the tasting notes of each wine, followed by a suggested pairing from the sharing platter. Of course, you could just eat it willy nilly, or all at once. But when in Rome, you do as the Romans do- and trust me when I say, the pairings were certainly worth it.

Before I get into describing these wines, I must give credit where credit is due. My boyfriend Ben, who accompanied me, is a huge wine drinker and pseudo-expert. So I took notes on what he was saying about the wines, in addition to my own thoughts. It takes a bit of practice to be able to identify tasting notes and other characteristics in wine, but once you train your tastebuds (and nose) a little bit, you'll be able to describe them like a pro! (I'm not quite there yet)

Onto the wines!

As with any wine tasting, we started with the driest, lightest, white wine. The Timpune Grillo comes from vines grown in high altitude, giving this wine a dry taste from start to finish, and has a honeyed color. It takes on the slightest hint of oak, without being overpowering, and has a taste comparable to pears. Having it alongside the creamy mozzarella was divine- it made me realize just how important pairings are, after all.

Our second white was much sweeter. From the second Giorgio mentioned that the Corte Ferro Zibibbo began its life as a dessert wine, I knew I would love it. But it was more complex than your average dessert wine, which is why it was deemed more suitable as a regular drinking wine. This wine took on flavors of not only honeyed sweetness and elderflower, but also had some slightly spicier undertones. This made it the perfect pairing with the peppery, salty pecorino cheese.

I certainly live by the mantra "Rosé all day." I don't believe in there being one "distinct" rosé season, so I was delighted to be offered a gorgeous rosé on our tasting, even though we're well into autumn.  The Tasari Syrah was very rounded for a Rosé- hitting that ideal spot between sweet and dry. With a dominant taste of pomegranate and strawberry, it was seamlessly complemented by the fatty, melt-in-your mouth, speck ham. Overall, this pairing was both of our favorites! 

For our first red, the Sacchia Perricone certainly packed a punch. A very earthy red, it's tasting notes were primarily anise seed and fennel. This wine achieved a depth of flavor and robustness without having the oaky finish that a lot of strong reds tend to have. We both found that this wine wasn't love at first sip- but it really developed its flavor after we had a few proper swigs. Served alongside tender slices of bresaola, you could tell that this wine would go fantastically with a meaty meal. 

Our fifth wine of the night was another red- and after hearing Giorgio's description of it, we had high expectations. He said they saved the best for last, so there was lots of pressure on this one. The Cutaja Nero d'Avola Riserva is said to be one of their finest wines- and it certainly delivers on that promise. This complex red has notes of prunes at first, but also slight hints of cocoa. It really is the ideal "big red," velvety, smooth, and rounded. While drinking this wine, I said to Ben "A good big red is like someone giving you a warm hug," and as silly as that might sound, I think it rings particularly true for this wine. And although I really am not a fan of gorgonzola cheese, it really did match the richness of the red wine. 

While the Selezione tasting focuses primarily on five wines, the bonus marsala wine at the end is certainly a welcome addition. At this point, we were almost completely wine-d out, but we pulled through to enjoy this golden nectar of a drink. As you'd expect from a marsala, this wine was honeyed, perfectly sweet, and had hints of almond. With a creamy tiramisu to share it was the ideal way to top off the evening.   

Thanks to Veeno, some of Italy's finest wines are right on your doorstep. You no longer need to scour the shelves at your nearest Tesco, or wander aimlessly around your local wine shop. Better yet, with Veeno's tasting offers you don't have to settle for a bottle- you can try them all! And I can say with most certainty that you'll be impressed by every single one of them. As far as I'm concerned that's a win-win.

And while I'll probably never even come close to being a connoisseur, my wine tasting at Veeno was certainly a start in my wine education. So whether you're a seasoned veteran of the vines, or simply a wine novice, a tasting at Veeno will certainly be up your alley. 

And for me? Well, anywhere that sells as good of a rosé as Veeno is somewhere I want to be. Count me in as a new regular!   

Thank you to Veeno, The Italian Wine Cafe for inviting me for this wine tasting, in exchange for my honest review. If you'd like to learn more about Veeno or view their menus, you can do so on their website here

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