Nopi- thinking outside the (winelist) box
“Giro d’Italia” “Going Natural” “And Gamay for All” “Black Gold” “Without Words” “The Outsiders” “Sake”
Those are not descriptors one would usually see as headings for a wine list but Nopi’s wine list is not exactly a “by the numbers, tick all the boxes” wine list. The list reflects the diversity of the wine world, the sommeliers searching for wines that reflect a sense of place (terroir) as well as being little known or off the beaten track. They also have a section of organic and biodynamic wines but that is from the point of view that they are excellent, well made wines, not a gimmick for the list.
I was recently invited to a wine and food matching luncheon to see what exactly was going on with the list wine consultant Gal Zohar and Sommelier Honami Matsumoto have put together for Nopi’s Middle-Eastern/Asian cuisine. Gal and Honami had the enviable job of matching the wines with our lunch. As the philosophy behind Nopi is all about small plates, we had 10 plates each matched with one (or sometimes two) corresponding wine(s).
The very first dish was a burrata with pink grapefruit paired with a subtle Slovenian riesling, the Verus 2010 was a revelation. Having a similar profile to Australian riesling from the Clare Valley but toning down the acidity, not so much of a palate cleanser but still very fresh and pure. A wonderful discovery.
A Garda classico , the 2010 from Selva Capuzza was next. I visited the Garda region in Italy last year and ever since, whenever I see a Garda wine, I know I’m in for a treat and it’s great to see this lighter style of Italian red getting some recognition.
The next wine really made me sit up and take notice an 85% white carignan, yes, that’s right, white carignan. Wow! How exciting, a new grape. I could see that this list was made for wine geeks. However, the wine (Domaine Ledogar, Blanc 10, 2010 Corbieres, France) was delicious, one any wine drinker could appreciate, full bodied with great minerality and a real sense of character, full on the palate with a smoky, anise flavour. I loved this wine and served with sea trout and preserved lemon salsa was fantastic, intensifying the lemon while not becoming mouth-puckering – a real find.
There were so many intriguing and thought provoking wines at lunch. Miso Quail served with a 100% pais from Chile was another standout (El Pais de Quenehuao, Maule, Chile 2009). Pais is a grape that’s only grown in Chile, fresh and light, it still had an intensity of flavour, not being overly extracted – very enjoyable.
An Italian, the Vigneto Paradiso, San Lorenzo Marche 2007 was made from the little known lacrima variety and was another surprise for my palate. An organic wine that was aged in concrete, it was a bit of a wild child but incredibly generous on the palate and aromas of rose petals with sweet fruit on the palate, a rounded mouthful, loved it! Why don’t more restaurants have such captivating wines? It was served with braised pig cheek with sweet corn puree and the wine brought out the smoky corn flavours of the dish, delectable.
Dessert of vanilla rice pudding could have been ho-hum but the roasted pistacios and rose (with vanilla and cardoman) brought it up to a whole other level. I loved the texture of the pudding, not a gooey mess, I could feel the soft rice grains on my tongue. Paired with a Jurancon, La Magendia” Clos Lapeyre, 2008 – a blend of 3 indigenous grapes, it is a late harvest wine and as the vineyards are close to the Pyrennes, the grapes are almost air dried while they are on the vine. A luscious wine with crackling acidity and rich, dried fruit flavours, a great alternative to the more traditional dessert wines.
A lunch of wine discovery, it was great to be introduced to these off piste wines. Lunch was a delight with the very attractive wine list and great food combinations. I asked Honami if she would consider doing a tasting menu with matched wines as a feature of the menu and she said she was considering it. I sincerely hope they do so that everyone can enjoy the wonderful pairings put together by the sommeliers of Nopi.
21-22 Warwick St.
London, W1B 5NE
020 7494 9584
Tube – Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus