Self-service wine at The Black Bottle in Winchester

If you’re a fan of wine, novelty, and shabby chic furniture and happen to have an afternoon spare in Winchester, a trip to The Black Bottle is the perfect way to fill it…

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In a cute country house, all lead-paned windows and creaky doors, you’ll find The Black Bottle. A ‘pub slash wine cellar slash games room’ is my best description of the place, which is owned by the same guy that opened The Black Rat (read my review here) and The Black Boy. When you enter, you’ll be greeted by the most charming staff who will explain the unique self-service wine concept to you.

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Essentially, you take a card, top up said card with as much real money as you’re likely to spend, then proceed to one of four ‘wine rooms’. These wine rooms – two for red wine, two for white – feature a big metal box on the wall and inside the box sits about eight bottles of wine. You pop your card into the slot on the box, select your wine, and decide whether you’d like a taster (about 90p), a small glass (about £2.50), a medium glass (about £5) or a large glass (£8 and up). Then you take a clean glass from the rack underneath the machine, place it under your chosen dispenser and hold down the button. Wine will flow into your glass (having passed through something very clever that keeps the wine ‘fresh’ and that the equally clever staff will explain to you) and then hopefully, into your mouth.

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Then you’re free to roam the quirky rooms within this intriguing venue, sipping wine, reading books, making friends, and playing board games, of which there are many to choose from. The decor is fab – lots of tapestry covered chairs, rustic tables, huge mirrors, trinket-laden mantelpieces and bookshelves, and impressive lighting (that emits very little light, for that cosy, countryside vibe).

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A trip to The Black Bottle can be as cheap or exuberant as you make it. My Dad and I spent about four hours there and stuck to tasters of each of the red wines, finishing on a large glass of our favourites – I loved the Chianti, Dad went for the Malbec, and we spent about £30 in total. We went on a Saturday afternoon before dinner at No.5 Bridge Street (I’ve also reviewed this one!), which is conveniently next door, and there was a good atmosphere with a couple of people in most rooms but plenty of space for us to find our own corner complete with sofa.

I’d definitely go back to The Black Bottle – the wine dispenser concept is really really cool and definitely something your friends will be impressed by for a casual weekend session.

The Black Bottle, 4 Bridge Street, Winchester, SO23 9BH

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Freelance writer, eater, drinker and cook living in London.

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