As the General Manager and Head Sommelier of Noble Rot, Jessica Wood has more than 20 years of experience working in hospitality.
Tucked away in Wellington's Swan Lane, Noble Rot is a Wine Bar that boasts specialist staff and a vast cellar stocked with hundreds of wines from across the world.
Growing up in the UK and with a mother who was a chef, Wood has always been surrounded by food and wine. This sparked her interest in the industry from an early age, eventually leading her to pursue becoming a sommelier.
Wood was especially intrigued by New Zealand's craft beer and boutique spirits scene. She decided to follow her curiosity, arriving in New Zealand in 2015.
Although Wood's specialty is wine, she states that a well-rounded sommelier must be familiar with many other beverages like tea, coffee and cocktails.
"The provenance and history of different beverages, as well as the skill involved in recommending and delivering them, is partly what attracted me to become a better bartender in order to elevate my service standards and enhance guests' experiences."
Her favourite cocktail to make is a dirty gin Martini, as she prefers the art of stirring rather than shaking. For Wood, Martinis have a romantic notion and can be personalised for the enjoyment of the individual. This is appealing to her as she constantly pursues creating an outstanding experience for her guests.
Wood noted that a great drink comes down to balance, harmony and complexity.
"It's all about how the individual components of the drink come together to create an orchestra of flavour and texture."
A good quality wine boils down to its structural components like tannin, acidity and oak and how well poised they are within the context of the whole wine.
"If the beverage in your hand makes you stop for a moment and savour it, it's a great drink."
For Wood, what makes being a sommelier so rewarding is using the seasons and current trends to create fun beverage menus for Noble Rot's guests.
"The rewarding feeling comes when I can read the guests' mood and pre-empt their needs by recommending and delivering them a beverage - whether it be a well-made classic like a Negroni, a bespoke mocktail for a pregnant person, or an interesting glass of wine that suits the guest's palate."
When Wood is not studying, tasting or talking about wine, she likes to spend her spare time walking in nature, watching sports and dabbling in nature photography.