In writing reviews, it would be fair to assume I’ve got an insatiable passion for food and wine. Some friends might argue that I’m merely an overeater and a functioning alcoholic, but I’m frequently too drunk or full to care what those people think. I do have an enormous crush on the grape, and so it stands to reason that I’d want to shine a spotlight on that vital venue for exploring the tipple you and I both love—the wine bar!
Located in Rufus Court, off Northgate Street, a pin-stripe suited 80’s estate agent would call Covino ‘deliciously bijou’, and I guess that’s why we all hate estate agents.
This softly-lit den offers an unaffected atmosphere, ideal for an intimate gathering or an impulsive after-work drink. From craft-paper roller noticeboards, industrially themed décor and simple shelving that boast a well-edited wine list, bursting with Old and New World wines; this is a wine explorer’s mini-mecca.
During the yuletide season, as Chester City Centre fills with festive retail revellers, Covino offers both a reward for a generous day of gift buying and a refuge from the feverishly frantic jamboree of the season.
Fear not, this isn’t one of those venues where the wine comes with a lecture. Wine focused venues often fail to garner repeat custom because they try and shine blinding floodlights of snobby and unfashionably pompous wine knowledge onto the experience – when most of us don’t mind the mystery left intact. The last thing I want when I order a glass of wine is to hear an unsolicited lecture on soil type, percentage of new oak and methods of vinification. I’m not looking to be educated; I just want a casual, inviting place with good food and delicious wine – you get that at Covino.
Listen, I’m not saying that your host won’t be able to talk with brevity about the wine if you feel so inclined, but here, they follow the same classic advice given to actors and writers — don’t tell, show — and this goes double for wine bars.
Covino is a romantic, unpretentious little gem. I’d bring a date here – any offers? Nope – didn’t think so! Choose from over 100 focused, surprising, dynamic and balanced wines produced from small producers of organic or biodynamic grapes, that have benefited from very little intervention from the winemaker. The wine list will help you gently push your palate out of its comfort zone if you’re feeling adventurous, with the familiarity of well know classics if you want to be soothed by something you recognise.
The food offering here is driven by the size of the venue, and its lack of commercial kitchen, but that doesn’t translate to a plate that’s limited in quality. A range of charcuterie and cheeses serve to compliment, not complicate the wine. The food style encourages a natural vibe in the venue on sharing and pairing, with a philosophy that one should enhance the other, and both should be equally and simply enjoyed.
I recommend following Covino on social media to keep up to date with when they open, as I went on a couple of occasions, expecting the venue to be open as per its advertised opening hours, only to discover it was closed. Perhaps give them a quick tinkle to check before heading over – so that you don’t experience the devastation of a locked door between you and a glass of pinotage.