TASTING BOTTEGA – An evening of indulgence

It had been a particularly stressful week when I received a call from the Editor to say that the Gibraltar Magazine had been invited to an exclusive wine and food tasting event with local company, Lewis Stagnetto Ltd. and a certain Sandro Bottega, a sommelier from Venice, and would I be able to attend. After a short conversation with the husband-to-be to explain that I would be getting home late that evening, engaged in the arduous labour of drinking wine and feasting, assuring him, of course, that I definitely wouldn’t be getting drunk or staying out into the early hours, I darted off in my only nice dress to find out who this intriguing Sandro Bottega was, and why he was in Gibraltar… as well as to drink a couple of glasses of wine, just to be polite, of course!

The event was hosted at Nuno’s restaurant at the Caleta Hotel. As I was ushered out onto the splendid balcony, the setting for our feast, I felt instantly transported to a tropical and serene place – my earlier trek through Main Street, wrestling with 1000 cruise liner tourists dawdling through town, stopping mid-stride to take photos of M&S, fading away into a distant memory.

Nuno’s balcony, overlooking the ocean and with the sound of waves lapping the imposing Mamela rock, was the perfect place to be greeted by a cold and inviting first glass of Bottega Gold Prosseco. Refreshing on the tongue, and just hitting the spot… oops! It had already gone – but, almost magically, another glass was being offered to replace the first and, when in such hospitable company, well, it’s rude to say no.

The purpose of the event organised by Lewis Stagnetto was to introduce Sandro Bottega, the MD and owner of Distilleria Bottega SPA, an Italian family-owned winery and distillery north of Venice. This was Sandro’s first visit to the Rock and he was clearly overflowing with passion and excitement to quench his audience’s anticipation and introduce Gibraltar to his selection of wines.

By the third glass, we had moved on to Prosecco Rose. I was a fan, but I was becoming increasingly concerned that, without food to absorb the alcohol that was so readily flowing, I would almost certainly be discovered for the fraud I really was. My cohort of fellow guests was positively oozing with sophistication; meanwhile, I didn’t even polish my nails. Nonetheless, whilst I did feel somewhat the odd one out, as I stood there holding my Bottega Prosecco Rose in one hand and balancing a Bottega Bacur Gin in the other, I began to think to myself that I really wouldn’t mind doing this more often, perhaps as top writer for some wine magazine. But just as I was about to drift off into that fanciful daydream, yet another glass found its way into my clutches… go on then, just one more.

Sandro was an exceptional host on all accounts; he had a clear passion and drive to make a name for his family business in Gibraltar. And, what was clear from the dinner was that, as tends to be the case with most Mediterranean businesses, it’s always better to do business with people you get on with and, even better, if it’s over a delicious spread of food.

The select group of guests included Albert, Peter and Maurice Stagnetto, their sales manager Alfred Lavagne, Bottega Export Manager Claudia Gambin, General Manager of the Caleta Hotel Franco Ostuni and his wife Maria, Food and Beverage Director of the Sunborn Hotel Umberto Panella, Gary Chant from Morrisons PLC, and local restauranteurs Brian Zammitt and Lino Brydges whose establishments specialise in Italian cuisine. Perhaps it was the likeability of the people which complimented the wine and food so well, or perhaps it was the other way around, but all I know is that the evening was such that everyone at the table felt they had been friends for longer than one night. It was one of those summer nights that flew by, as it does when surrounded by the most precious things in life, fantastic food, delectable drink and captivating company.

Cheaper than Champagne, and lighter and frothier than Cava, Prosecco is really carving a path for itself as the on-trend drink of the moment, with hashtags such as #proseccothursdays and #proseccotime promoting its growing popularity amongst the stylish ‘insta-generation’. Bottega’s part in this global phenomenon is providing a top quality, great tasting product in equally appetising and luxurious packaging. Bottega’s distillery now sells to 120 countries and produces over six million bottles of Prosecco annually. Lewis Stagnetto Ltd., who are clearly a fan of the wine maker and the ‘Grappa’ tradition, are partnering with Sandro and Claudia to promote their products on the Rock. And, with evenings such as these, I am sure there will be many more converts, just as I have become one.

During the course of the evening, Sandro, in his own animated and quintessentially Italian way, told us all about his family business and how the distillery was built by his mother Rosina, or ‘Rosy’, who had an extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit, which has evidently been passed down to Sandro. Their inspiring philosophy is to exercise respect for the environment which bears them their wonderful product, ensuring continuity for future generations, whilst still producing a top quality product which bears a beautiful design. They are particularly proud of their eco ethos and their choices in investing in renewable energy sources, adopting eco-friendly practices throughout the entirety of the wine-making process and championing the principles of recycling and organic farming techniques.

And, let me not forget, that while Sandro’s discourse was fascinating, over the course of the dinner, I was also delighted in conversation with the Stagnetto family – who, by the way, encompass all the traits of excellent potential drinking and cigar-smoking partners in crime! And as we rounded off the evening with the typical Italian ‘Limoncello’ and ‘grappa’ liqueurs, I couldn’t help but feel a looming sense of sadness (not to mention the hangover) that it might be a while before I have the opportunity to enjoy an evening listening to Sandro and the Stagnetto family again. At this point, I thought it sensible to suggest that, in order for me to glean a fuller understanding of the work that goes into wine making, surely a visit to the winery was necessary – purely for academic purposes, of course! I’m not sure, however, that Sandro and Claudia seemed quite so keen, perhaps owing somewhat to my only slight inebriation by this point when I made the suggestion. Oh well, it was worth a try… cheers to a great evening!

words | Angela Almeida