Review: The Black Bottle, Winchester

Almost this time last year the lovely J-Swizz asked me if I’d help celebrate the occasion of her birth at a self-service wine bar in Winchester and I’ll admit I was dubious. J-Swizzer is a fan of culture and fine establishments but also loves hot heavy beats and dancing like a mentalist – my thoughts turned to a Yates’ Wine Lodge affair with frenetic music and vending machines dispensing WKD Blue, Stella Artois and prescriptions for Chlamydia.

I literally couldn’t have been more wrong. So when it came to arranging a birthday celebration of my own with the Thunderbirds there was only one place I wanted to go.

The Black Bottle looks pretty unassuming from the outside, the black slightly foreboding frontage belying what’s going on inside. Entering through the side door you step immediately into the bar where you’re greeted like an old friend by the bar staff before being given a Black Bottle card and asked how much you’d like to load on to it. The place looks like a quirky little cottage all cosy and welcoming with the wines divided into different rooms – a red room and a white/rose room both upstairs and down. It’s easy to grab a table and then start exploring the wines on offer which are dispensed by the glass from the discreet machines on the wall. You can buy a 25ml taster, a 125ml small glass or go all out and have a 175ml large depending on your preference.

One of the boys in our group played it safe and did taster glasses of pretty much every red on offer whereas yours truly played wine roulette and took the plunge with large glasses, just hoping I wasn’t going to pick something I didn’t like. My friend Harold is a bit of a wine connoisseur and so grabbed a menu and made suggestions for people to try but if you don’t have a Harold in your friendship group then the staff are knowledgeable and friendly and always happy to recommend a tipple or two. We ordered a couple of charcuterie platters that came with manchego and breadsticks to fill up some rumbling tummys and spent the evening laughing, chatting and drinking – total bliss.

I had a lovely night with some of my favourite people and can’t recommend the Black Bottle highly enough. It’s great for a drinks occasion with a group of friends, and would be brilliant for a date with a special someone, if you’re in the area you really should check it out. Their website is http://theblackbottle.co.uk and they run regular wine (and yummy cheese!) tasting events.

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