Last week I had a great spuntini and wine (re-)discovery: Veeno Leeds.
We’d been before, actually, but it had been some time, and I think memories have faded…basically, I’d forgotten how good it is! Look at the state of the above: taralli, parma ham, focaccia, finnocchiona, olive tapenade, ciabatta and balsamic-glazed parmesan on a bed of rocket, with verdant green olive oil for dipping and a sun-wrinkled black olive to finish off that sunny palate.
All of the nibbles are sourced in Italy, and though I am exceedingly proud of what foodie stuff we’re doing on home soil at the moment, classic Italian breads, meats and cheeses sometimes cannot be beat.
I was invited along to a blogger event, and we all got to sample wines, complemented by a massive board of spuntini. Spuntini, for those of you without a desire to snack in every language, means nibble or snack in Italian, and (from our Northern Italian living experience anyway) it is ALWAYS customary to get some free spuntini when you order a drink. Italians are civilised like that.
Veeno is stocked by the Caruso vineyard in Sicily, because Nino Caruso and a friend, living in Manchester, decided they couldn’t go on without adequate access to wonderful Italian wines and spuntini in England…this is where Veeno started! We met Caruso himself, and he was really lovely, friendly and personable, as well as down-to-earth and proud of his successful Veeno venture.
We had the Veeno winetasting, which is on the menu at £19.90 a head. I’d call this an absolute bargain (me and the Man have done it ourselves in the past off our own bats) – the amount of food and drink you get is
generous; it’s easily a full-meal substitute. The six wines all go particularly well with elements of the spuntini board (but if you’re not massively into food-matching, they are a broad spectrum of Italian wonderful flavours which complement this interesting selection of Sicilian wine well, so tackle however you see fit.
Sicilian wines aren’t utterly well-known in the UK, besides Nero d’Avola. That means you might be exposed to some new and exciting tastes, which is always a good thing…when we lived in Venice we found that the number of grapes in Italy is just completely astounding; in the thousands. You could never hope to know them all.
The first wine was a white, a Cataratto. It’s a pleasant drinking wine; a perfect “house” or “table wine”. For £10 per bottle, there is not a quibble to be had. It slips down easily, but doesn’t make a massive impact.
The second wine was an Inzolia. This is also the grape used to make marsala, the famous Sicilian dessert wine, but in the form of a white it was a little more complex and enjoyable than the first wine. this is a great wine to talk over, enjoying sip by sip rather than chucking it back, but again it’s really reasonable.
We then moved onto reds, the first of which was a Frappato/Nerello
Mascalese mix – an unusual mix at that! Frappato is renowned for creating light, grapey wines, whilst Nerello Mascalese is more like a Sangiovese – something with a little more complexity and character. The combination was unusual but certainly easy drinking!
The third red was less popular amongst the crowd, but I had a soft spot for it – it was a Cabernet Sauvignon with a little more complexity than the others. The other reds were really fruity, whack-and-be-gone wines, whereas this had a longer lasting presence in your mouth. Veeno call it “elegant” and I think I’d agree. Again, well matched with the parmesan – I could eat parmesan and drink wine literally all night, it’s my favourite cheese without a doubt and this held its own alongside.
Finally – Marsala. Served with tiramisu, you’re finishing off your meal in the most traditionally Italian way (I mean, North Italy definitely claim tiramisu as their own, so it can’t be called Sicilian I don’t think…). This is a Veeno strength, though. Outside of the wines from the Caruso vineyard, which are obviously Sicilian in origin, Veeno is not snobby about sourcing the most appropriate things from across Italy. It is an Italy we already commonly know and love in England (you’ll be faced with the focaccia, the olive oil and the finocchiona salami, but won’t face the slightly less well-known anaemic northern polenta, tramezzini or baccala, for example) but it is done to perfection. The focaccia is the best I’ve had in some time (counting, actually, a recent trip to Puglia).
The only downside to Veeno is the decor – I always think that it is aesthetically pretty unappealing from the outside (the sign look a bit like one of those vaping shops – not ideal) and it’s a little cold inside – but to be honest, that’s pretty Italian! It’s not pretending to be anything it’s not – as Caruso told us, he wanted to be able to visit somewhere for a tasty glass of wine and some authentic, quality Italian spuntini after work – and this is exactly what Veeno provides. Go – you won’t be disappointed (I’m booked in for next week, I couldn’t stay away!)