Hotel du Vin in Edinburgh offers rooms, food and drink to visitors and locals alike. This December, they had a Christmas market. There was carolling. There was wine tasting. There was whisky tasting and there were cheeses to die for. I went and had an evening of beautiful Christmas songs, wine, whisky and cheese.
The building is a curious one, with platforms here, rooms there: it takes a little while to get used to the layout. There’s an upstairs bar that overlooks the restaurant and has a wood fire. The scent is lovely and diffuses the reception. Tucked into a corner off the upstairs bar is a very special wine tasting room. It is special not just because wine tasting takes place there, but also because of the table it takes place around. I had no idea that you got such a thing as a wine tasting table but it makes sense. A large glass table with integral spittoons and taps. The room is for hire and a normal wine tasting there takes about 1.5 hours and covers six wines, three white, three red. I’d let Sebastiano Ingaliso, the chef sommelier and wine buyer, chose to get some interesting new experiences.
Sebastiano took time to explain what you were tasting and also likes choosing something a little different for you. We tried a white that was very good: full flavoured, dry but also fruity, that reminded me of a wine I used to drink on special occasions until Oddbins stopped stocking it. Honeyed in colour, and rich enough to go with almost any food, this Italian wine was my favourite of the ones we tried. There were four of us in my tasting session: two were driving and couldn’t drink. Hurrah for spittoons!
Clarks Speciality Foods were there with a huge number of exciting cheese. I found Paddy’s Mile Stone, which I had in Kyloe recently, and Criffel, which I enjoyed in The Stockbridge Restaurant. These two cheeses will also be on my Christmas cheese board. They are fabulous. Criffel is my special favourite and Clarks’ resident cheese expert, Tanny Gill, told me how they make that type of washed rind cheese. It’s pungent and ever so tasty. Clarks supply a lot of restaurants and Tanny is the answer to my question of how restaurants keep a good cheeseboard: they take advice (and buy products) from suppliers who know what’s ready to eat just now. Clarks have a new website and shop: check out the cheese! (And the other goodies.)
Also at the market was Arran Aromatics and we were all sent home with a bag off sweet-smelling goodies. I know, it’s not food, but it was really interesting to have an opportunity to meet some of Hotel du Vin’s suppliers and talk to them about their products, whether they were edible or not. I’ve walked past Arran Aromatic’s store on George Street several times but now that I know what they sell, I’ll pop in.
My evening ended with a whisky tasting in the Whisky snug. Expertise was offered by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. We tasted four whiskeys, from a light lowland to a only slightly smoky Islay, and had a really good laugh. It wasn’t the weather for it, and I don’t smoke, but Hotel du vin has an outdoors cigar booth. In summer it must be a great place to be.
You’ve heard of Hotel du Vin in this blog before: I had a delightful dressed crab there a while back and they have a champagne courtyard that opened last summer.