I wrote a short blog post about my first trip to Noble Rot in February this year (Noble Rot 1) and had not intended to cover my second trip last night. However, I had such a stonking night that I could not let it pass without a bit of a mention.
I was catching up with two ex-colleagues, who are both keen wine geeks. One is a hater of natural wines “they taste like flat cider, I just don’t see the attraction”, who loves ethereal red burgundy, even though he claims to “have never had a bottle that I really enjoyed”. The other is one of these lucky bastards who always seems to have bought a case of amazing, now rare and expensive, wine ten years ago “in a bin end sale for a few pounds”. Last night’s latest revelation was a case of Saumur Champigny from Clos Rougeard. Ten years ago I was living in Australia drinking nothing but Shiraz….doesn’t sound quite so impressive, does it?
Anyway, back to last night. “Lucky Bastard” was running late, so “Ethereal Red Burgundy” and I kicked things off with a plate of iberico ham, a bowl of olives and Noble Rot’s excellent bread. Last time it was the soda bread that I raved about but the crusty focaccia stole the show last night. The crust on the bottom almost tasted like it had been deep fried in olive oil. The crispy texture a perfect foil for the slithers of ham. We asked the sommelier what he thought would go well with the ham, but after giving clear guidance that we had a natural wine hater in our ranks, so we didn’t want anything from the Jura, the sommelier showed some balls and pointed us to a chardonnay from the Jura. After he promised it wouldn’t taste like flat cider, we agreed to give it a whirl. This turned out to be a good move;
Bojocien Les Juveniles Chardonnay, Domaine Labet, Jura, 2013 – Oak, lime and grapefruit on the nose. Rich mouthful of butter, nuts and minerals. Long lemon-tinged finish. Really good stuff that went very well with the iberico.
About two thirds through the bottle lucky bastard arrived and we dived into the wine list to see what we’d order next. Two particular bargains jumped out at us; a 1973 Trimbach ”Cuvee Frederic Emile” for £73 and a 1998 “Pavillon du Chateaux Margaux” for £80. Really, £80? A quick google search told us that Majestic have it on their list retail(!) for £170 a bottle. The sommelier confirmed it wasn’t a typo and they only had one bottle, so we quickly put first dibs on it before turning our attention to a white to go with our starters. Unfortunately they only had one bottle of the Trimbach, which had gone at lunchtime, so the sommelier suggested a Vouvray with a bit of age instead. Another inspired choice;
Clos Baudoin Vouvray, 2001 – Slightly reticent nose to start with, which revealed hints of peach and mango after a swirl or two. Lovely mouthful of tropical fruits led to a refreshing finish. I loved this wine.
With our main courses arriving we moved onto the Pavillon Rouge.
Pavillon Rouge Du Chateau Margaux, Bordeaux, 1998 – Woo-hoo! Olives and red fruit on the nose. Smells and tastes unbelievably young, could pass for 2008 rather than 1998. Nice blackcurrant flavours, followed by nice tart acidity on the finish.
But why was it so cheap, we asked the sommelier? As well as using “the usual wine merchant and importer route” to source wines for the list, he told us that they buy a lot of mixed lots from auction. Mark Andrew, one of the co-owners of Noble Rot, used to be a buyer at Robersons and has an eye for a good deal from the auction houses. Rather than using the London auction houses, where “prices have gone through the roof”, he makes regular trips to Belgium where there are more deals to be had at auction.
He tends to find value in mixed lots, in which he may have targeted one or two particular wines, but with it come a range of other interesting bottles. As our sommelier told us, “this adds to the breadth of the list and keeps it evolving, which the customers like”. It also means they pick up some real bargains, like the Pavillon Rouge we had last night. It means they take a bit of risk with the condition of the wines this way, so they taste every bottle they open before serving it to the customers, “It means we have to take a hit and discard a few but, on the plus side, I get to taste some unbelievable wines”. Not the worst job in the world is it?
As we moved onto dessert, we left ourselves in the sommelier’s capable hands. Rather than a bottle, he came up with 3 wines by the glass, which we split between us in a mini-tasting; a Vin Juane-esque wine from the Jura that isn’t high enough in alcohol to be called Vin Juane, a 1999 German Spatlese Riesling and the pinnacle of the night, a NV Chateau Y’Quem. It’s apparently not generally available but Noble Rot have bagged an allocation of it somehow.
It is an unofficial second wine, a blend of the fruit that didn’t quite make the grand vin across a number of vintages. Shit, was it good? Like the best marmalade and honey concoction smeared onto sweet ripe melon, with a sprinkling of refreshing black pepper. It finished so fresh and soooo long. The marmalade flavour went on forever. I swear, I had an espresso, got an Uber home, brushed my teeth, flossed, mouth-washed and as I lay in bed I am sure I could still taste marmalade.
I shall remember that wine for a long time. Maybe one day I will get a sniff of the real thing….