Wine House Hotel 1821 in Edinburgh
Few words excite Peter Ranscombe more than “wine” and “library”, so bringing the two together at the heart of the new Wine House Hotel 1821 in Edinburgh was more than enough to pique his interest.
Edinburgh has a long and illustrious history as an important city for wine. In the days of the “Auld Alliance”, merchants from Bordeaux would ship their finest claret to the Scottish capital through the port of Leith, leaving the dregs for the “Auld Enemy” south of the border.
With such strong vinous roots in the city, perhaps it’s not such a surprise that Italian wine company Zonin chose Edinburgh as the location for its first Wine House Hotel 1821. The family-owned business – is best known for producing prosecco, Italy’s flagship sparkling wine, but it also owns nine other wineries in its homeland, along with Barboursville in Virginia in the United States, and its new Dos Almos property in Chile.
The wine hotel concept is being rolled-out worldwide, with San Paulo in Brazil the next city on the firm’s hit-list. The interior of the Edinburgh establishment – set in a Georgian townhouse on Picardy Place, opposite the Omni centre – was designed by architect Claudio Silvestrin, with each of the four bedrooms named after one of Zonin’s estates.
Sitting at the heart of the hotel is its “wine library”, where guests can go to find out more about the bottles made on the family’s estates and sample wines from Italy and beyond. With its long central table and blonde wooden panelling, the library feels cosy without bring claustrophobic and creates a relaxed atmosphere in which to explore wines.
Visitors don’t have to be experts or wine geeks to enjoy the library though. Ladis Basta – the hotel’s in-house sommelier or wine expert, formerly of chef Tom Kitchin’s The Kitchin restaurant in Leith and The Samling Hotel in the Lake District – is on-hand to help guide guests through the extensive wine list and to make recommendations.
Basta has already begun to organise tasting events in the library and is planning to stock some older vintages of Zonin’s wines too. He can also provide platters of delicious cheeses and cured meats to accompany the bottles.
All the wines served in the library and bar are also available to buy to take home. The takeaway prices for the bottles are all £10 lower than their prices in the bar; either way, they represent great value for high-quality wines being served and sold in the centre of Edinburgh.
Highlights amongst the range include the 2010 Oltrenero Brut Nature (£33.50 a bottle in the hotel or £23.50 to takeaway), a sparkling wine made from pinot nero grapes – also known as pinot noir – and produced using the traditional method, in which the second fermentation that creates the bubbles takes place inside the bottle, as opposed to inside a pressurised tank, as with prosecco.
The Oltrenero spends 38 months ageing on its lees – the dead yeast left over from the second fermentation – which creates a deliciously creamy and textured mouthfeel to balance its fresh acidity and its crisp red cherry and raspberry flavours. It’s a step up from prosecco – even from Zonin’s very well-made prosecco.
The 2014 Tenuta il Bosco Pinot Nero (£24.50 or £14.50) illustrates how good the red grapes can be on their own without being turned into sparkling wine. Wood smoke and damp earth join the red cherry and redcurrant aromas on the nose, while the concentrated red cherry fruit flavours are paired with lush sweet vanilla on the palate.
The classic 2012 Cossetti Barolo (£42.50 or £32.50) is packed full of the signature Barolo aromas of leather, cigar smoke, rose petals and tart redcurrant and cranberry. The fruit on the palate is much darker and lusher, with blackberry, blackcurrant and a twist of liquorice on the finish.
One of my favourite styles of Italian wine is Valpolicella and the 2014 Zonin Valpolicella Ripasso (£25 or £15) didn’t disappoint, with its dark chocolate and black cherry on the nose leading into blackberry, sweet vanilla and more black cherry flavours on the palate. Sweet and lush, but with enough acidity and fruit to balance the warming alcohol.
For those seeking a simpler experience, the bar also serves wines – and beers – by the glass in a relaxed atmosphere. Yet, even for those who just visit for a glass or two, it’s worth having a nose around the wine library to capture some of the excitement.
Nestled on the second floor, the bedroom in which I stayed was called Albola and was named after the Castello di Albola estate in the Radda hills above Chianti. It was really spacious, with floor to ceiling cupboards tucked away in the vestibule and a fine view out across the rooftops of the New Town towards the Firth of Forth.
The bathroom was equally impressive, with a separate bath and walk-in shower. Scottish Soap Company products ticked my all-important “local supplier” box, but the towels could do with being upgraded from standard sized to full-blown bath sheets to maintain the luxury boutique hotel feeling that runs throughout the rest of the fixtures and fittings.
Albola was on the back of the building and so well away from any road noise. The Altemura bedroom also caught my eye when I toured the hotel on the opening night back in October, with its similarly-generous proportions.
Moving down to the first floor, the dining rooms have space to seat 70 in comfort. The Edinburgh branch has been opened in partnership with Sep Marini, the restauranteur behind the Tony Macaroni chain, so a return visit to sample the food once it’s up-and-running is high on the agenda.
Down in the basement lies the cocktail bar, which I can see becoming a popular destination during nights out in Auld Reekie. With the prosecco flowing, it could be an interesting alternative to bars on George Street or in the West End.
Rooms at The Wine House Hotel 1821 in Edinburgh start from £150.
Find out more at www.winehousehotel1821.co.uk