Veeno, Manchester’s first wine cafe devoted to the wonderful concept of an ‘Italian Aperitivo’, invited us to one of their classic wine tastings. Of course, we readily obliged...
A stone’s throw from the town hall, Veeno is in the thick of it, yet doesn’t feel over-crowded in the slightest. A cosy little space, Veeno keeps the warmth in during the winter and helps you leave your working day at the door. As its creators intended, Veeno feels like a welcoming pocket of Italy, not too far from the business district, where you can unwind and catch up with friends at intimate tables. It really is a small space, but management do well to fit enough tables in so that it feels full of conversation, without being cramped. A mix of barrel tables, high tables and window-side seats, Veeno isn’t clinically uniform but is rather familial and warm... the perfect atmosphere to match the food and drink on offer. True to concept, a “Veeno” sign made up of used corks proclaims that this is a place of enjoyment – you can never have too much wine.
The Wine Tasting
These guys are patriotic about their wine. Somehow, hearing that Veeno import every bottle from the same family-owned vineyard in Sicily made us respect the wine on offer as if we were let in on a small family secret. Coming in at around £19.90 per person, the experience included 6 varied wines and a dessert wine to boot. In accompaniment, we were served a vivacious platter of breads, spreads, cheeses and cured meats – also known as a ‘Spuntini’ platter - which were excellently paired with each of the wines. Without giving too much away, here’s our run-down of the delicacies we tried:
The spuntini – think thinly sliced white bruschetta smeared with a salty, black olive tapenade, delicately slim breadsticks, cheese, olives, salami and parma ham. As you can imagine, we enjoyed our nibbles. Each selected to complement one of the proceeding wines...
The whites - the first of the two wines was far too easy to drink. This white made me question my commitment to my favourite hearty red Rioja. Aged for four months in stainless steel barrels, it was deliciously fresh, and perfect for leading us into the next. A little more grown up was the Terre de Giumara Inzolia, which was simply delicious.
The reds – next up were three dazzling reds. The first was the Terre de Giumera Frappato & Nerello which was smooth as. This one had notes of spices, wild berries and even added caramel to my companion's palate. We could quite happily have drank that all night on its own, although we did welcome the Salame Milano slices it was paired with.
To finish – a rose dessert wine, anyone? No? Good, more for us then. This Marsala Superiore Riserva made with Cataratto & Grillo grapes had the rich sweetness of a port and went excellently alongside a creamy, homemade tiramisu. All of the wines were available to take home to relive the evening, and priced between £9.50 - £21, we saw no reason not to...
The Atmosphere and Clientele
There was an unspoken agreement between us all at Veeno: we appreciate good wine. These people weren't here on the lash, nor were they just whiling away the hours. Nope, these folk were conscious drinkers. It seemed every sip was enjoyed as life took a slower pace. A chatty spot, we were comfortable chatting about our lives and having a giggle in amidst our fellow winos but also felt relaxed and cared for by the attentive servers.
Veeno has started a culture that's clearly catching on as it prepares to launch it's Chester bar and continues to thrive in 10 other cities across the UK. Clearly, the UK has a thirst for Veeno and after all that wine? We think we do too.