Edinburgh has such a rich choice of restaurants and bars it can be hard for any new opening to stand out, but, as Helen Arnold discovers, premium Italian wine company, Zonin, hopes to make a difference with the launch of a new hotel dedicated to wine in a new venture with local celebrated chef, Sep Marini, called The Wine House 1821, the year Zonin was founded.
A new wine hotel opened by Italy’s largest privately owned wine estate Zonin, in partnership with Scottish restaurateur Sep Marini is bringing a taste of Italy to Edinburgh. Helen Arnold headed to the Scottish capital to find out more.
Edinburgh has long had a love affair with Italy since the late 1800’s when the first immigrants arrived in the Scottish capital to escape the hardships of their home country and seek out a better life. With them they brought a whole new food culture, and as a result are now largely responsible for running the numerous fish and chip shops, ice cream parlours, pizzerias and Italian restaurants across the country.
The food scene in Edinburgh has changed enormously since the days when these immigrants first arrived in Auld Reekie, when olive oil was something you could only buy in a chemist, and wine drinking was largely the preserve of the upper class.
Now barely a day goes by without a new restaurant popping up, a gin bar opening its doors or an artisan brewer setting up in business.
But a wine hotel is a new concept for the city and one that has just been launched by venerable Italian wine producers Zonin, who in partnership with local restaurateur Sep Marini – of the Toni Macaroni chain – have just opened a boutique hotel, the Wine House Hotel 1821 (the year that Zonin was established).
Situated in a Georgian town house at the edge of the New Town in Picardy Place, currently dominated by demolition works of the eyesore that was the 1960’s St James’ shopping centre, the Wine house Hotel, which is described as “a connoisseur’s dream destination”, includes a wine bar, a cocktail lounge, a “wine library” where guests can sample Zonin’s wines by the glass and buy bottles to take home too. There is also a function room and four individually designed bedrooms, said to be inspired by Zonin’s Italian wine estates.
Behind the traditional façade, the interior is more contemporary, with a distinctly European feel, and designed by leading architect Claudio Silvestrin, who has previously worked on projects including those for Italian fashion designer Armani and rapper Kanye West. Think sleek lines, warm oak panelling low lighting and red Venetian marble, creating a stylish and welcoming vibe, the light wood a subtle showcase for the library of wine.
The top two floors are dedicated to the hotel, with the four rooms each named after one of Zonin’s estates. The first floor will be used for tastings, cooking demonstrations and winemaker dinners, while the basement has been converted into an atmospheric cocktail bar.
On the ground floor, pride of place has been reserved for the Wine Library, with its shelves groaning under the weight of wine and books on a range of subjects, from wine – obviously – to cars. All of Zonin’s wines from its nine estates across Italy to its vineyards in Virginia and Chile are on offer, as well as various wines the group imports from regions such as Australia and Champagne.
While Zonin is best known for its Prosecco, this is the place to try out some of its other varietals, including Oltrenero Brut Nature (£9 for a 125 ml glass, £33.50 for a bottle, or £23.50 to take away), or a sparkling wine from Lombardy made using the traditional method, where fermentation takes place in the bottle instead of in a tank under pressure as it does with Prosecco. Customers can also sample Zonin’s 2016 Ca’Bolani Sauvignon Blanc (£6.50 for a 175ml glass, £23.50 for a bottle or £143.50 to take away).
From Zonin’s American estate in Virginia, comes the 2014 Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve (£13.50 for a 175ml glass, £33.50 for a bottle of £23.50 for a bottle to take away), rather more familiar in the Loire Valley than in the US.
There is a small Enomatic wine system in the library, as well as a Coravin device.
“The concept behind the library was to have a place furnished and decorated in an Italian style where we could bring all our wines and where clients can feel like they’re in Italy,” said vice president Michele Zonin .
And given the close ties between Scotland and Italy, where better to launch the first wine library but in the country’s capital.
“Recently the market has become more interested in Italian fine wines and we were seeing more and more interest in Scotland,”continued Zonin.
“We were talking with our friend, the restaurateur Sep Marini about doing something on wine, then came the opportunity to set up in a very beautiful house in the centre of Edinburgh.”
“In addition our wine library will have a great selection of our old wines that people can taste by the glass. Customers will be able to buy bottles to drink there, as well as to take away for a flat £10 margin, in contrast to the typical 200 – 300% mark up typically charged by the on-trade.
“The idea is to let people taste and enjoy the wine. It’s not really driven by economics and so far we haven’t had problems from other restauranters,” said Zonin, who went on to explain that the Edinburgh establishment is a prototype that they want to roll out to other cities.
Zonin 1821’s corporate export director, Alessandro Marchesan, said: “We are bringing our culture and experience to Edinburgh – and to anywhere where we open. The Wine Library is a place to come and enjoy our wines. We hope to have winemakers come here for an event. Saturday afternoon maybe cookery. We want the Wine Library to become a social club,” he added.
The next Wine Library is scheduled to open in Sau Paolo’s main fashion drag, Rua Oscar Freire in December, with “at least ten” planned for next year.
After Brazil, Vienna is being mooted as a venue, as well as key cities in Canada, the US and Moscow.
Zonin has high hopes that as the Wine Library project is rolled out globally that restaurants, hotels and other spaces will host a Wine Library in their existing premises.
“They will be tailored to the individual space but will be modeled off the current design, with Silvestrin still leading the project.