With craft beer bars sweeping across the capital, the backers of a Wellington wine bar are on a mission to make wine cool again.
Jean Paul Henderson, Amy Gillies, Josh Pointon, and Maciej Zimny opened Noble Rot wine bar in June 2016.
“Craft beer is cool, craft beer is hip, everyone is on that wagon and wine seems to be just for old people, or rich people, and it’s not,” Pointon, the co-owner of Mirimar’s Cafe Polo, said.
“There’s so much fantastic things happening in wine that we just wanted to share it with people and do it without a sort of pretentiousness.
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“We want people to be able to come in here and not feel scared or not feel embarrassed that they can’t pronounce gewurztraminer. We want to open it up.”
The idea to open a bar came after Pointon and Zimny — who met in 2012 when they were doing their Diploma of Wine course — started a wine tasting club.
They met Henderson and Gillies, and quickly decided to go into business together.
“We’d identified that there were no out-and-out wine bars once Vivo [Enoteca Cucina] had closed, which left a hole in the market,” Pointon said.
The group starting scoping out sites immediately, and came across the former Duke Carvell’s building, which they knew would be perfect for a wine bar, he said, but needed a substantial refurbishment.
“Initially, we had those people coming through and some of them were complimentary of the changes and some of them were a bit disappointed with some of the changes,” Pointon said.
Founded by the Bresolin brothers, Duke Carvell’s was sold in 2015, but the business was placed in liquidation a year later.
“We never wanted to continue in Duke’s theme, because Duke’s had been done and then it had been tried to be done again by someone else and they’d failed, so I think we wanted to pay respect to the Bresolin boys and say, ‘You know what, their business was awesome, but it’s time for something new in here’, so we really wanted to change it completely.”
The group learnt a few lessons along the way, including how to set up and run a business on a small budget, he said.
“We are not millionaires, so we had a budget and money gets eaten up pretty quickly when you are opening something new, so we had to be pretty smart about what we did…
“There’s a lot of places out there that have backing by people that have a lot more money, so they don’t have to worry, so they can get whatever they want, but for us it was more about making it look great, without blowing the world on it. That was a huge challenge.”
Pointon hoped to grow the business by introducing wine education, he said.
They would educate customers about wines from one region and host tastings to match. On top of that, they would cater food from the region.
“Wine often has a stigma attached to it that’s a bit hoity-toity, and it is expensive — a lot of the great wines are expensive — but I think there’s a way you can access wine that’s not going to break the bank, and also have a bit of fun.”
Their wine list includes about 400 wines from New Zealand and overseas, with the most expensive bottle being from the famous Domaine Romanee Conti estate in Burgundy, priced at $2500.
“How many of those have we sold? None,” Pointon said.