Home News > December 2023 > Q&A: Bella Babbit, Wine Director, NoMad London

Q&A: Bella Babbit, Wine Director, NoMad London

The inimitable Bella Babbit has brought diversity, excitement, and value to the wine list at NoMad London. But how does the Swedish-born wine director select her favourite bottles? James Lawrence investigates.

What vintage are you?

I was born in 1994.

When did the wine bug bite?

I was lucky enough to work at a place called Resturang AG in Stockholm which has a fantastic list. I started as a food runner which also meant I helped look after the chef's table. There were always exciting bottles being opened there. The sommelier and servers always let me taste everything from incredible Barolos to corked wines. It was an incredible introduction and I’ve been obsessed with the world of wine ever since.

You preside over a brilliantly diverse and exciting list – how does a label make the cut?

Of course the price point is very important, especially at the moment when guests are a little more money conscious. But there is really a space for most wines on the list from all corners of the world, as long as they are made with consideration in the vineyard and minimal interference in the cellar so they can really express their terroir to the fullest.

According to analysts, the market for no-and-low beverages is growing at a meteoritic rate. Are you seeing that on the restaurant floor?

I think it’s fantastic that there are so many more options as well as new and interesting styles of no and lows. It’s definitely something that we have more guests asking for. You can also tell that the guests are more educated about their options, whether it is non-alcoholic spirits or a low abv cocktail.

It is very noticeable that many of the UK's leading sommeliers are from Europe or elsewhere. Why do you think the profession is not more attractive to British school leavers?

 I think this applies to hospitality in general, we are still struggling to have it taken seriously as a career in the UK. I think for sommeliers specifically there is also an element of not knowing where to start which leads to it being seen as an intimidating field. I think the key is making it seem more approachable and achievable.

Do you look for professional qualifications when recruiting – do you think a more unified approach to sommelier training might help the industry?

I agree having fewer options could help as I think a lot of people get a little overwhelmed and unsure of what route to take. But I also think the idea that you absolutely need qualifications is false and sometimes focused on too heavily. It is a great way to get base knowledge, but there is so much more to being a sommelier that you can only really learn being on the floor. When I am recruiting, enthusiasm for knowledge, and a passion for hospitality is much more crucial than if you have your level three WSET.

On a lighter note, which underrated wine region deserves our attention?

I think Galicia is super underrated. So many wines with incredible value and elegance. Personally I can’t get enough of the wines from Forjas del Salnés, especially their Finca Genoveva made with Caiño.