Natural wine has no single definition. So why would anyone put an unknown at the centre of the festival philosophy? Read More
As promised, here is the second part of “Where to taste wine in Wellington” and this week I’m sharing my favourite wine clubs and wine groups with you. Read More
To drink wine well doesn’t require a whole heap of instruction. To start to understand and appreciate the nuances – that requires a bit more in the experience, consideration and guidance departments. Read More
Friday, after work. Looking for a place to catch up with a friend over a few wines. In a city with more than 400 restaurants, bars and cafes, this should be a really straightforward pursuit. And yet somehow there’s only a handful of restaurants and bars actually up to the task.
This isn’t an attack on this brilliant city or the passionate people who make up the hospitality industry. There’s been a few shifts in the Wellington drinks scene that have gotten us here.
Firstly, as the craft beer capital the focus has moved away from grape and towards grain. Secondly, the big trend in the international drinks scene is cocktails, and Wellington bars are following suit.
Finally, two of the most reliable spots – Arbitrageur Wine Room & Restaurant and Vivo Enoteca Cucina – closed their doors at the end of last year.
The issue is further compounded by the number of places that take a conservative (read: uninspired) approach to their wine list, and that many of the really interesting lists are at upmarket restaurants. Some of these are happy to welcome you for just a glass, while others who would prefer you join them for a meal – but how do you know one from the other?
Thankfully there are still a few wine bars in Wellington that are well-equipped to welcome punters to not only enjoy a great glass of wine but also kick-ass atmosphere and service. Here I’ve picked a handful that are worth a look.
(I considered adding a ‘wine to try’ note against each place for you, but the beauty of the selected few is that they all employ staff who know and love wine. At places with great lists and knowledgeable and friendly staff I prefer to ask for a recommendation. Not only does it help you avoid choice paralysis, you’re more likely to try something out of the ordinary.)
New(-ish) in the CBD
One of the more exciting newer eateries wine-wise comes from the team at Floridita’s who opened a sister restaurant a few doors down: Loretta. James Pedersen, Loretta’s Wine Bar Director was challenged to make a list with only 20 whites and 20 reds, all available by the glass, the 1/2 bottle and the bottle so everything is accessible. Accessibility is key as the colourful wine descriptions used on the menu merely hint at what will be served up. A bit of a tease, tempting you to order a glass and find out more. (181 Cuba Street)
Around the neighbourhood
It’s the suburban neighbourhoods that are really exciting wine-wise at the moment including both the new – with Salty Pidgin in Brooklyn – and the not-so-new – with Cafe Polo in Miramar.
The perfect neighborhood bar and bistro. I could prattle on about the tasty, rustic fare, the rotating craft beers on tap or the deftness of the staff when they skillfully pick a wine to pair with your meal. And all of it would be absolutely true. But really, I’m just interested in that high seat by the window on a warm night, by the fire when there’s a chill and a glass in hand. The wines on the list change often. (5 Todman Street)
The wine list at Cafe Polo is largely comprised of New Zealand wines with a few international treats. That in itself isn’t terribly radical, but look at individual wines and it’s obvious there’s a wine lover at the helm of the Cafe Polo wine list. While the food focuses on the principles of slow cooking and provenance, the wines are carefully selected to be well matched with lively conversation and a lingering dining experience. (Cnr Rotheram Terrace and Para Street)
Oldies and goodies
A quick look at those flash restaurants who don’t mind you coming in for a vino. Both well-established and well-loved spots.
Logan Brown Restaurant and Bar presents the best mix of impeccable service and laid back approachability. The majority of customers see it as a place for a full scale meal. Rather unfortunate, as they’re missing out on a 200+ strong wine list with over 30 of these offered by the glass. So pop in and enjoy a glass in all that opulence and grandeur. (192 Cuba Street)
Ortega Fish Shack and Bar is another of the old guard of that continues to impress. The wines they favour are unique and boutique – under-promising and over-delivering in terms of value for money. Davey McDonald, Owner, Manager and Maitre d’ at Ortega, who was recently named Restaurant Personality of the Year at the Consumer Good Food Awards is the perfect person to help you to pick out a yet to be discovered treasure. (16 Majoribank Street)
I set out to keep this a concise look at noteworthy wine lists, so I’ll stop it here. Except to sprinkle a little wine love on the comfy courtyard at Ancestral Garden Bar & Restaurant (35 Courtenay Place), the wonderful sherries at Avida Bar (132 Featherston Street) and the stunning views at Hippopotamus Restaurant (Museum Hotel, 90 Cable St) before I go.
Looking back over the brief list of options it shows that what we lack in quantity we sure make up for in quality. I’ll drink to that.
Image by Cafe Polo.
I’m so pleased that Elissa Jordan joined the Sip NZ Wine tribe and is going to keep us updated with what’s happening in the capital.
But before I’ll share some her posts with you, let’s find out a bit more about her.
Hi Elissa, thank you so much for joining the team…
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background:
Originally from a very small town in northern Ontario, Canada, I spent most of highschool planning to travel the world. First a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry, then a Journalism Diploma got in the way.
Finally, I was off, 30 countries in the first three years with some of the highlights including a climb to the top of Mt Fuji, a dive to the depths of the Red Sea and a (loooong) bicycle ride from London to Paris. I settled in London a while before relocating to Wellington in 2010, making a wee pit stop in India for a further yoga teaching qualification.
Currently I spend my days as a project manager and business analyst, my evenings and weekends as a yoga teacher and everywhere in between studying towards my WSET diploma certification.
What brought you to New Zealand?
I met a Kiwi in London and we moved to New Zealand together.
Why and when did you start to learn about wine?
I started learning about wine in January 2012, as my New Year’s resolution. It was meant to be a single year of exploration, just enough so I could pick a bottle from the shop and have a reasonable understanding of what I had bought.
By this stage I’d been in New Zealand 18 months and I still didn’t know my Waipara from my Wairarapa – everything still felt so very foreign. That first year wasn’t only to get a better handle on wine, it was also to get a better handle on the geography of my new home.
What’s so special about New Zealand wine?
I reckon it’s the people: work ethic + sense of humor = something special.
What’s your favourite New Zealand wine?
Martinborough Pinot Noir.
Are there any parallels between yoga and wine?
Yes! Balance, appreciating it more as you learn, falling over.
If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
Well, according to three separate online quizzes I’m either Champagne, Merlot or Chardonnay.
I would probably go with Chardonnay – especially when it’s described like this: “Fresh, spirited, and classic – you have many facets to your personality. You can be sweet and light. Or deep and complex. You have a little bit of something to offer everyone… no wonder you’re so popular. Approachable and never smug, you are easy to get to know (and love!).”
Why did you decide to start your wine blog “Winey Little Bitch”?
When I made a new years resolution to learn about wine, I set up my blog to keep myself accountable. I’ve kept it up as a tool to help with my WSET studies.
Also, my memory is shocking, this way I have a record of what I’ve tasted and what I liked.
Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
Good company! That way if the food and wine pairing is a flop the night is still a success.
Hidden gems and favourite spots in Wellington?
My go to place for a long while was Arbitrageur Wine Room and Restaurant. Sadly they closed end of last year. Loretta, Salty Pidgin and Ortega Fish Shack and Bar have all helped me cope with the loss.
Things you still want to do:
I’m an A-type personality. That makes for a very long list.
Last book read:
Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki – Haruki Murakami
Advice on buying wine:
Find a retailer (or two) you trust. I’ll buy based on a producer or a meal or the person I’ll be sharing the wine with. But if I’m shopping at a place I trust, those times when I’m confronted with choice paralysis I can get a recommendation from someone who already knows the wines I enjoy.
Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
I’ve got some pretty spectacular friends in different pockets of the world, if I could share a glass with anyone, I’d just scoop up a group of them.
Thank you so much Elissa. Keep an eye out for her first post on Sip NZ Wine next week and in the meantime head over to her blog Winey Little Bitch, follow her on Twitter and if you’re based in Welli join her group Winey Little Tasting Group.