Inside the new, post-lockdown Noma

The famous Copenhagen restaurant has re-opened as a burger-and-wine bar. And while there’s been lots of talk about the burgers, we ask the key question – how’s the wine list?

Words by Guy Woodward

Photography by Ditte Isager

Foodies the world over – or those in Denmark, at least – were buoyed last week by the re-opening of Noma, René Redzepi’s celebrated Copenhagen restaurant.

Four times named the best restaurant in the world, Noma’s 20-course, £300-tasting menu, for which bookings are normally required months in advance, has been replaced with £20 burgers served in an outdoor, no reservations, drop-in wine bar.

Just two burgers are on offer: a cheeseburger and a veggie burger, both described as being “packed with umami, with a little bit of magic from our fermentation cellar, and served on a freshly baked potato bun.” The cheeseburger features dry-aged bavette steak and beef garum (a fermented sauce said to have originated in ancient Rome), while the vegetarian option in based around quinoa tempeh. Both will be served for at least the next six weeks.

But whereas the food has been salivated over, virtually, by Noma acolytes the world over, there has been little commentary on the merits of the wine list. Until now…

Noma has re-opened as a burger-and-wine bar, with a 100% natural-wine list

In keeping with the restaurant’s ethos, the list – which will be modified daily – features only natural wines (Noma was among the first high-profile restaurant to follow such an approach). And while, consequently, many of the names may be unfamiliar to the average diner, several will be well known to natural wine devotees.

That said, as well as an inviting selection of the natural wine world’s usual suspects there are also a clutch of hard-to-find cuvées, as well as some lesser-known producers. In short, this is a list of variety and intrigue – and certainly not predictable.

The list is categorised under headings of sparkling, white, orange, pink and red. Among the highlights in the first two categories are Marie Courtin’s Concordance blanc-de-noirs Champagne from the Aube, made solely from Pinot Meunier; a Weissburgunder-Riesling blend – en magnum – from Christina Tschida in Austria’s Burgenland; and Philippe Pacalet’s Beauroy 1er Cru Chablis. Among those listed as orange wines, Tom Shobbrook’s ‘Giallo’ blend of Muscat Petits Grains and Riesling from the Adelaide Hills, and Sepp Muster’s ‘Erde’ rendering of Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon from Austria’s Styria will likely register on the radar of natural wine lovers.

Along with the obligatory Frank Cornelissen listing (a 2011 Susucaru 4 from Sicily), the rosés span L’Anglore’s alluring 2010 vintage of its Chemin de la Brune blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Aramon, as well as a Cataratto-Pignatello blend from Gabrio Bini in Sicily’s Pantelleria. More experimental selections among the reds include an Ardèche Syrah from Domaine des Vigneaux, and a Sumoll-Moscatel-Garnacha-Syrah blend from Jordi Llorens in Catalunya.

Champagne and Chablis – but not as you know it

While such names may be outside the comfort zone of the average wine drinker, for Redzepi, such an approach is in keeping with his standard list – and, hence, his philosophy of turning to the familiar at a time of uncertainty. “We were like, ‘Should we do an ant marinade with raw carrots to have that twist of who we are?’” the chef told the Los Angeles Times. “But then I’m like, ‘No, why should we do that right now?’ It’s about being together, it’s not about trying to be innovative.”

“In the first phase of the reopening we want to be open for all,” said Redzepi. “We need to heal, so let’s have a glass and a burger.” The chef outlined that he may add other summer snacks to the menu “as ingredients come into season” — a fried chicken sandwich, crudités and ice cream — “but first, we open with a mighty burger.”

As restaurants the world over try to plan their own re-openings, Noma’s venture represents one model to consider – an initial step up from the takeaway approach that many have turned to during lockdown. Open from 1pm to 9pm, Thursdays to Sundays, the temporary set-up is expected to accommodate up to 500 patrons a day — 60 at a time – instead of the few dozen guests the restaurant is used to serving per sitting.

The full wine list can be seen here.