Restaurateur Tony Crolla would have been excused for sitting back and enjoying the ubiquitous appreciation for his Vittoria restaurants that the Edinburgh dining community deservedly lavishes upon him and his team. Not content to do this however, the chain has expanded to the popular La Favorita pizza restaurant in Leith and the modern A Taste of Italy at the top of the Walk. The latter, won particular favour with this reviewer for serving incredibly affordable and yet very real food late into the night all through this year’s Fringe.
The latest offering Crolla brings to Edinburgh is the Divino Enoteca – situated in the sophisticated basement space on Merchant Street, directly below the George IV Bridge Vittoria. Divino is an Italian Wine Bar (or Enoteca) which with the help of modern technology will serve a menu of over 200 wines many of which are exclusive and rare vintages. Headed by Sommelier Sebastiano Ingaliso the Divino team are keen to make accessible the variety, subtlety and depth of Italy’s wines to Edinburgh’s happy sippers. As well as the ambitious range of fine wine on offer, the bar will serve a menu of Italian delectables to compliment the tasting experience.
A chic bar specialising in wine and serving well-selected accompanying food is one thing – what sets Divino apart is the Enomatic wine machine. This state-of-the-art piece of technology is only the second in the country and the first in Scotland. Looking like something one might find on the flight deck of a Sci-Fi spaceship; the Enomatic is a cylindrical table-sized unit within which bottles of wine are arrayed behind glass, pouring nozzles protruding and flashing LED screens above each bottle.
Using Nitrogen gas the machine keeps wine from deteriorating after even the smallest glass has been taken from each bottle. This way every drop is tasted at the optimum temperature and oxidisation. If this wasn’t exciting enough the Enomatic dispenses three different volumes (and prices) of wine – in rather a coffee machine style – from each bottle. Allowing one to taste the bottle for as little as £1.20 or to take a glass for prices ranging from £3 to £18 (specified clearly by that LED display). And it is this sampling facility which is what makes the Divino experience so revolutionary. This is fine wine for everyone. Even on a tight budget, one can taste several bottles of wine which would previously be out of one’s financial reach and then settle on a full 125ml/175ml glass for about the same spend as a bottle of mediocre mega-vineyard plonk in the local chain pub.
A further example of the team’s admirable endeavour to marry quality with value is the deliciously crisp single vineyard Prosecco priced at a seductive £4.50 a glass. Ingaliso did hint that the Enomatic might be hosting several sparkling offerings by this Christmas – a scenario which is truly tantalising!
The nature of the Enomatic will also allow Ingaliso the flexibility to select a range of wines for tasting which could reflect, for example, a journey through Italy’s regions or the diversity within just one region or within one grape variety. This focus on leading the customer through the wine-tasting experience is further evident in the 14-seat wine education room which is available to book. This particular potential for private parties and corporate entertaining makes a refreshing change from the other sort of hospitality which often goes on in Edinburgh basements.
Focusing on their carefully selected wines will not mean that only liquid titillation will be on offer at Divino – Crolla and Ingaliso have been at least as diligent in selecting the best that Italy and Scotland have to offer in terms of antipasti. The centre-piece of the food menu is the Il Grande Antipasto Divino plate at £14.50 and will feature vegetables, pate and bread as well as the traditional cured meats and cheeses one would expect. As with all the food at Divino, the excellent selection of antipasti has been chosen to represent the best in Italian regional flavours but also to complement the wines on offer – and judging by the delicious Spec, olives and Taleggio tasted at the launch party the nibbling experience will be as flavoursome and as accessible as the wine.
So, for those of us wanting to educate our palette and to excite our eager taste buds, without spending the fortune Edinburgh’s top-end hospitality institutions often require, Divino will be a welcome drop of innovation onto the taste scene.
By Emily P