How often do you go to restaurants and groan at the length of the winelist? Or end up simply skimming the recommended ‘sommelier’s choice’ or wines by the glass? Well, the wine list at Yotam Ottolenghi's new restaurant Nopi is a model of what the time-poor, harassed diner wants - simple and intriguing sections, each of which tells a story.
It was put together by wine consultant Gal Zohar who used to be the sommelier at L’Anima - hence the large proportion of Italian wines on the list. He’s also been seduced - as sommeliers increasingly are these days - by natural wines although they’re not flagged up as such.
The wines come largely in groups of three or four. Whites, for example, include The Outsiders (“off the beaten track wines from unusual places packed with intriguing and unusual flavours”), Tour de France (self explanatory but some off-beat choices) and Mountain Wine ("high altitude and marginal growing conditions produce crisp, clean and unapologetically fresh wines").
Reds include Lesser Known Varietals, Gamay for All ("much more than the old Beaujolais Nouveau, Gamay produces stunning wines") and Volcanic Wine ("extra fertile, enigmatically powerful volcanic soils have a way with wine. They’re like a multi-vitamin creating wines packed with minerality and fresh acidity.") It made you want to try them all.
Zohar has deliberately gone for clean, mineral wines that are modest in alcohol to go with Ottolenghi’s food which is light, mainly fish and vegetable-based and designed to be shared. I tried five wines of which the only one I thought was slightly out of place was a fine Barbaresco 2005 from the Produttori dei Barbaresco though all credit to Zohar for putting it on by the glass.
A light, lush 2009 Versus Riesling from Stajerska in Slovenia was lovely with a plate of burrata, blood orange and coriander seeds while the earthy Etna Bianco ‘Biancodicaselle’ matched better with a plate of grilled hake kebabs with lemon pickle and yoghurt. The best match though was a light fragrant Austrian blend of Pinot Noir and Zweigelt, Wien 2 from R & A Pfaffl which was just knockout with some spicy beef brisket croquettes and Asian Slaw. Oh, and I forgot the 2004 Vin Santo del Chianti Rufina from Fattoria di Basciano which sommelier Honami Matsumoto brought with the cardamom rice pudding with rose syrup and pistachio. The wine tasted like having a compote of dried apricots with the dish. An inspired pairing.
The only downside to this adventurous way of eating and drinking (and obviously not a downside for the restaurant) is that it would be easy to run up a hefty bill if you got over-enthusiastic. (A tip - I think you probably only need two plates per person instead of the recommended three so go with a friend/friends so you can taste as much as possible) But it’s unusual to find somewhere offering such original and delicious food and wine right in the heart of London (just off Picadilly Circus). If you're already an Ottolenghi fan you'll love it. If you don't know his food add it to your list.
Nopi is at 21-22 Warwick Street, London W1B 5NE. Tel: 020 7494 9584. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I ate at Nopi as a guest of the restaurant