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Sicilian Wine Tasting at Vino & Vino, Smithfield, London

October 6, 2012

It wasn’t the nicest weather for an evening of Sicilian wine tasting. Heavy rain falling across London led to me choose to drive rather than negotiate a complicated journey on public transport which would inevitably result in me getting soaked. And this also meant I would have to confine my wine drinking to actual ‘tasting’. However, there was never a moment I wasn’t going to drive those short but traffic-congested miles because I’d enjoyed a similar evening at Vino & Vino earlier in the year, and London Italian Language Meetups are always fun and it’s a great group of people.

Located within the Square Mile of the City of London, Smithfield is the largest wholesale meat market in the UK and one of the largest in Europe. There’s been a livestock market on the site for almost 1000 years. It underwent a major refurbishment in the 1990s which saw an influx of smart pubs, restaurants and wine bars. The market itself is open Monday – Friday from 3 a.m. and is pretty much over by mid-morning. It’s then that local city workers and visitors flood into the area to eat and drink and in the evening the area is buzzing with life. After I’d parked my car and run across to Vino & Vino, it was a lovely welcoming sight, lit up with people at tables eating in one part, and the Italian group congregating in the back area.

We’d paid £15 for the evening and this included the tasting of four Sicilian wines, with a talk by Frederica about each one.

There were also stuzzichini – little appetizers such as mini bruschettecrostini and pieces of Sicilian cheese, like provola, which were brought round for us to eat while tasting the different wines.

I wasn’t quick enough off the mark to photograph the first bruschette that came round, with a topping of very delicious caponata, but there were some lovely cheese and ham toppings and wonderful little warm crisp breads with toppings.

There were generous portions of wine to taste. Not much use for your car-driving Single Gourmet Traveller but still, they were very enjoyable tastes. The main thing for me was being with a group Italian speakers. It’s always a mix of people: as an English person, indeed a true Londoner, I was in the minority as there were lots of Italians and people from other countries. That is part of the fun. Sometimes conversation may break down into English but last night I found most people stuck with the Italian and although my Italian is not very good, everyone is kind and patient if you stumble and hesitate a bit, so it’s not the least intimidating and a great way to practise. (Hopefully Fabio may notice some improvement at my next lesson!)

As for Vino & Vino, it’s a lovely wine bar and I only wish it was a bit closer to home. Take a look at their website and sign up for the newsletter as they often have regional Italian themes with great offers for meals. And if you’re in the Smithfield area anytime early evening, this is the place to go for an Italian aperitivo and some complimentary stuzzichini which are served after 5 p.m., Italian-style. In Italy, it’s common to be given complimentary snacks with an early evening drink – much as tapas in Spain – so it’s a great thing to have this custom make its way into the heart of the City of London. So, go on, even if it is pouring with rain outside, head into Vino & Vino and enjoy a sunny taste of Italy!

From → Pubs & Wine Bars

3 Comments
  1. petit4chocolatier permalink

    I have never been to London. I love wine tasting and the Sicilian wine tasting sounds superb! The complimentary snacks are definitely a bonus!!

    • Well let me know if you ever come 🙂 Little complimentary snacks like this are common early evening in Italy … I’ve found especially in Rome where you order a prosecco at 6pm and a little plate of food comes too! In Venice they have cichetti but you usually have to pay for them … not much though.

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