An Evening at Noble Rot
By Gregory Michailos
It’s quite easy to be 'hypnotized' by the superb wine list at Noble Rot and to get lost in a dreamy wine world. I was kindly offered a book - actually the wine list - by Yiannis Karakasis, as I took my seat in London’s fashionable and packed temple of wine. My first visit, late on a Tuesday evening in May. To be honest, shortly afterwards I passed the truly amazing wine collection on to the hands of others, who awaited in anticipation.
Sorry my fellow wine-lovers, but the wine list at Noble Rot is only a small part of the beautiful story it shares with its guests. If you stick to the list you will easily miss the vibe and the soul of this amazing place, which is situated in the artistic neighbourhood of London’s Holborn. What sets Noble Rot apart from any other wine bar I have visited to this day, is that the wine list simply acts as a catalyst, as the beginning of a “conversation” that could lead you absolutely anywhere in the end.
The essence of Noble Rot is that it relates the unsung stories of each wine, that the waiter passionately serves his unlisted findings blind (as if one has the slightest chance of guessing the Romorantin grape, even if one were a Master of Wine), the love and respect shown to artisan winemakers and the agonies they face to produce the fruits of their labour. Each single wine is a unique way to connect souls and communicate with other people. I guess this is what could be described as 'creating a memorable experience'.
As I progress in the world of wine, I find myself trying to figure out what initiated this journey and, most importantly, what continues to keep my spirit alive. I am not sure if I have a definite answer, but I tend to believe that it is all the people and places, like Noble Rot, that insist on doing things differently. Empirical artisans like Gaudry and Riffault in Sancerre, who use the verbs feel and observe every time they refer to their vineyards and wines, who fight against the odds when marketing their product and who do everything outside the box. Or producers like Domaine de Jaugaret, a true representation of St Julien’s brilliant terroir, who has now been rejected from the appellation system as atypical, because he strives to survive in the homogeneous world of ‘Parkerised’ Bordeaux wines.
There is no doubt that Noble Rot lists all the amazing wines you might have ever wished to taste. But next time you plan to pay a visit, please do me a favour. Don’t be seduced by the wine list, but rather allow yourself to be carried away by what is happening around you. Take a look at all the happy faces over a bottle of wine, the endless conversations and laughs between friends and couples, the clings of the Zalto glasses, the precious moments that you share with your beloved company, the people you chose to be with. “Observe” and “feel”, as all great winemakers of this world do with their wines. And make sure that there will always be a great wine and an even greater story that these guys will generously share with you.
This is life… and love… and inspiration. Having said that, the food was also absolutely, bloody delicious.
My two top picks of the night:
Luckily enough, a company of eight people is the perfect number of participants, as it gives you the chance to taste quite a few different bottles of wine. In our case this also gave Yiannis and the Sommelier enough space to create their own “magic”.
The start was brilliant with an ethereal glass of Michel Gonet’s Blanc de Blancs Champagne followed by Domaine Roulot’s Aligoté. Aligoté was a brave introduction to what was about to follow, by the same producer, a bit later in our glasses. A surprising blind tasting with a Cour-Cheverny, made in a flinty, oxidative style with razor-sharp acidity brought the Loire valley into the “game”.
But what really blew my mind was legendary Roulot’s 1er cru Meursault “Clos des Boucheres”. Roulot is a champion of Meursault’s terroir and he crafts some of the finest wines in the region. The 2016 displayed great depth and complexity, however it was also silky and elegant compared to the fuller, richer style of the appellation. The strong mineral backbone of the wine and its fresh acidity married excellently with my fish served on top of a creamy sauce made from leeks.
The lovely red Burgundy of Cecile Tremblay was also amazingly pure with excellent focus and it was followed by Jaugaret’s silky sensation, a rare 2012 Saint Julien. The boutique, family-run estate on the left bank of Bordeaux is an exception among the luxurious grand chateaux, yet it makes soulful wines, respecting the family’s long-lasting tradition. The 2012 bursts its idiosyncratic personality with haunting aromas of violets, red fruits and minerals followed by a modest and vibrant palate of just 12% alcohol. And yes I am not joking about the alcohol!
Gregory is a wine consultant and educator based in Athens. He will be contributing to this site on a regular base and he will be reviewing Greece together with Yiannis.