A kind winemaker once told me that if you like the wine you're drinking, then it's a good wine for you. Wine is a discussion, a conversation, with endless aspects to learn and appreciate. With that in mind, being an absolute wine novice, I popped in for dinner at Noble Rot, the latest effort from a little knot of Wellington wine lovers who saw the need for a wine bar which imparts a love and appreciation for wines, both from NZ and regions further afield.
This love and appreciation for wine is undoubtedly what you absorb walking in. Somehow, Noble Rot has managed to combine the feeling of an interesting, hip French wine bar with the atmosphere of an elegant fine dining restaurant. All this in the heart of Wellington's Cuba Street, flanked by Best Ugly on one side and surrounded by various food spots of different cuisines.
We were lucky to be tended to all night by Maciej Zimny, the head sommelier (and 2015's NZ Sommelier of the Year, no less). Maciej is professional, confident and ever-keen to share his pure passion for wines with whoever asks. I asked if he could send me the tasting notes for the wines we drank that night, and was greeted with a lengthy document in my inbox.
We started with a beautiful NV Riondo Prosecco, from Veneto Italy. Throughout the course of our meal, we tasted wines from all across the world- from a 2015 Ogier Heritage Côtes du Rhône Blanc from the Rhône Valley, to a 2013 Château Marsyas Cabernet/Shiraz from the Beqaa Valley, in Lebanon. Noble Rot's wines are selected from both eminent vineyards as well as from lesser-known, interesting producers. Every taste can be taught something new from their passionate and extensive list. I particularly enjoyed my 2012 Château Villenfranche, from Sauternes, France. Composed from two varieties; Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, its aromas and flavours are determined by fungus Noble Rot (you even learn something new from the name of the wine bar...). This dehydrates water, changes the acidity structure, and imparts characters of delicate acidity, orange peel, and candied passionfruit and sweetly spiced vanilla.
It would be unfair to focus wholly on the wines here, though- because the food is effortlessly brilliant too. I tried to include every single thing we ate and drank that night at Noble Rot in my first draft, but it was truly exhausting to read. I actually felt jealous of myself.
Noble Rot's menu is designed around both sharing, and individual mains (for those who want their plate to themselves). When it comes to deciding the menu, flavours that will accompany the wines beautifully are a strong focus, as is seasonality. This means that the menu changes often. Our starters ran the gamut from pickled sardine toasts with creme fraiche and dill, to wild venison tartare with barberry, while we had squid ink spaghetti with surf clams and a banger of a beef eye fillet, tender and accompanied with tarragon butter, mushroom and pommes pailles for our main course. To finish, after we were bulging from many glasses of wine each, we shared a plate of poached rhubarb with milk and honey sorbet and apple walnut ginger crumb, and three of Noble Rot's rotating truffle selection.
Our visit was a while ago now, but I have since been back for an early evening wine- Noble Rot is an ideal spot to sit outside and sip with friends also. Come and be enveloped in the warm, slightly tiddly embrace of Wellington's wine loving community. You'll love it.