Wines to take home from Contini


IT’S a situation that will ring bells with most diners – after enjoying a delicious bottle of wine with your meal, you quickly scribble down the name from the label so you can try it again at home.

You search high and low on the shelves of your local bottle shop but, to your dismay, you can never find the exact same bottle again.

Victor and Carina Contini think they may have found the answer.

Diners at their eponymous restaurant on Edinburgh’s George Street can now buy any of the wines served on their menu to enjoy again at home.

It’s a posh twist on off-sales – there’s no room for cheap plonk here, just the same high-quality “Victor’s vino” that’s served at the tables.

And it’s a brave move too. Having one set of on-sale prices next to the bottles on the menu and then a separate list with off-sale prices at the back could lead to some scratching of heads.

Then again, I think the clientele at Contini will cope; they’ll recognise the costs involved in serving food and drink on one of the most-popular streets in Scotland.

Instead, I suspect they’ll focus on the great value offered by the off-sale prices and the Bellavista “Alma” Gran Cuvee Franciacorta (£45 on-sale, £32 off-sale) is a perfect case-in-point.

Everyone knows Prosecco, the all-conquering Italian sparkling wine in which the bubbles are added through a second fermentation that takes place inside a tank.

But fewer drinkers have enjoyed its cousin, Franciacorta, which is made using a similar technique to Champagne, with the sparkle coming from a second fermentation inside a bottle.

Bellavista’s Franciacorta is made using 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, which together deliver rich red apple and lemon flavours, with a hint of bread on the nose and a touch of butter on the palate.

It’s dry and packed full of the familiar fizzy wine acidity, making it a great match for an appetiser of pane al forno.

A starter of salame from Calabrese was expertly matched by my guide for the evening, Thomas, to the 2014 “Pipoli” Aglianico del Vulture (£35/13) from neighbouring Basilicata.

The port-like red cherry and vanilla flavours of the wine worked very well with the spicy meat, while the fresh acidity cut through the fattiness.

Next up was haunch of Scottish venison, served with cavolo nero, roasted balsamic onions and dried figs.

Venison is a gift when it comes to Italian wines – the firm tannins for which the country is renowned come into their own when paired with rich meats.

Thomas opted for a 2013 Allegrini “Palazzo della Torre” (£55/£27), which is made using a similar technique to the traditional “ripasso” style wines of Valpolicella, with some of the grapes dried before being turned into wine.

On those nose, it was full of sour cherry aromas and sweeter black cherry notes, which worked especially well with the mix of flavours on the plate.

The venison melted in the mouth; soft, pink and juicy.

Contini has recently reopened following a major refit, with a battleship-full of stylish grey paint adorning the fixtures and fittings, while a flock of multi-coloured lamp shades perches on the central candelabra.

The fresh look extends to the plates too and none more so than the cheeses.

The slices of pecorino were accompanied by drizzles of honey and crunchy almonds, along with a thin bread crisp inserted fan-like to rise from the cheese.

I’ve always fancied pairing pecorino the cheese with pecorino the wine and Thomas indulged me with the 2015 Gran Sasso “Alta Quota” Pecorino (£38/£6).

Dry white wines are a delicious match with the right cheese; I enjoyed the intense pear and lemon rind flavours in the glass and the fresh soft tang of the cheese.

The sweet and salty elements of the wine, the cheese and its accompaniments was great fun – just like eating a block of milk chocolate alongside a packet of salt and vinegar crisps.