Often in the past I’ve found that when something is hyped it ends up disappointing just because of all the hype – it holds true for movies, restaurants, wine, all things subjective really. Such was my feeling going into the White Stick Sips tasting held at Gordon Ramsey’s maze. Having not been there in the year or so they’ve been open and having seen all the reviews flying on the foodie blogs it certainly had quite a lot to live up to – despite some reviews tempering my expectations somewhat. However, in this case the hype lived up to expectations and the evening was definitely a winner.
Situated inside the magnificent One&Only hotel you can rest assured they pay attention to their wine list. And if you’re doubtful of that, the line up of bottles greeting you at the entrance should at least make you question that opinion.
Let me explain why… It’s very rare amongst the WSS panel that all of us agree on the quality of wines we are served and heated debate often breaks out regarding some ratings – which inevitably turns into discussion around ratings in general and what they actually mean. This is a good thing; it means we aren’t all looking for the same things and allows for the diverse tastes of the panel to be expressed through our ratings. However, where maze really amazed was that there was very little disagreement in general about what we had in our glasses and that whatever it was, it was quality. Is this perhaps a result of their decision to only list wines that were tasted blind and agreed upon by trained sommeliers and senior staff members? It certainly looks like it and it’s a practice I would highly recommend to any restauranteur – despite the fact that your clients will drink the wine sighted.
So what were we served that is deserving of such praise you ask. Well here’s the list:
1. Silverthorn Genie ’07 (16/20)
I have to admit this wine really stumped me. Any of the other MCC Shiraz’s I’ve tried – Nitida, Camberley and a couple from Oz a few years back – have all been dark red in colour, slightly – if not overtly – sweet with a flavour profile that shows their red grape origins. This on the other hand was bone dry, showed just a blush of pink in the colour, and had a light strawberry nose, lots of lemon and citrus acidity on the palate – flavours that I wouldn’t normally associate with Shiraz – and a terrific finish.
2. Constantia Glen Sauvignon Blanc ’08 (15.5/20)
A great example of your salty/tinned pea/asparagus style Sauvignon Blanc with hints of perfume on the nose as well and a great flinty-minerality to the palate. The only thing that brought this wine down slightly was a little volatile acidity on the finish.
3. Raats Chenin Blanc ’08 (14.5/20)
Have never been a fan of Raats’ Chenins when tasting them sighted and as it turns out, I’m not the biggest fan when tasting them blind either. This was one of the few wines that I disagreed with many of the panel members on. It’s an elegant wine but I didn’t pick up much on the nose and the palate lacked body being very much on the lighter side to me – in fact slightly watery even.
4. Rustenberg Stellenosch Chardonnay ’08 (17/20) The high RS on this wine was sure to set it apart from the previous wine. Serious burnt popcorn on the nose indicative of lots of oaking gave way to . Candied melon dominated the palate with the wine having lovely structure held together by good acidity balance against the high residual sugar. As a side note, this wine really reminded me a lot of the Rudera Robusto – although that’s a Chenin so perhaps I was just confused – regardless, if you enjoy the Robusto be sure to give this a try. I’d wager it appeals to your palate.
5. Muratie Pinot Noir ’07 (14.5/20)
Really not my style of Pinot Noir. Big, full-bodied and surprisingly herbaceous, cactus/aloe-vera notes on the nose, one could easily mistake this for a Merlot. The palate came across super-dry and lacking in fruit. Needless to say I was pretty much alone in my opinion.
★ 6. De Trafford Merlot ’06 (17.5/20) ★
Without a doubt the wine of the night for me! Showing a little bit of age and some caramelised toffee notes on the nose. The palate was everything you could ask for: elegant, balanced, structured with well integrated tannins and a long herbaceous finish. Really, no really really, a spectacular wine!
7. Warwick 3 Cape Ladies ’05 (16.5/20)
The value pick of the evening at R290/bottle was also showing it’s age well. A brighter almost ruby colour with heaps of red-berries thrown in amongst some violets on the nose. The palate followed through showing hints of spice, loads of pinotage juiciness and a long mint-chocolate finish.
8. Vilafonté Series M ’05 (17/20)
The final wine of the evening and certainly another crowd pleaser. Dark and brooding on the nose: dark chocolate, dark berries. Moves into a juicy red berry palate with light buttery-vanilla notes and some boiled sweets. Rounded off by a long minty finish. Despite being the same age as the previous wine, this one was still as fresh as a 1st-year and definitely has the legs to go a good few more years. Delicious!
So there you have it… a great line up of wines that managed to convince the panel that maze should take top spot. That, despite the fact that the Raats and the Muratie let them down slightly in my books – my average of 16.06 falls slightly short of Cru Cafe’s 16.13 and Westin Grand’s 16.63. But really, they shouldn’t have – the Raats is a highly rated wine regularly achieving 90+ scores in international ratings and the Muratie is somewhat of an industry stalwart when it comes to Pinot Noir. The Raats, as mentioned previously, has never been a wine I have enjoyed and the Muratie clearly just didn’t agree with my palate on the night. Nonetheless, I have to say that this really was one of the highlights of the WSS tastings thus far and given the location and the venue I would eagerly anticipate any form of tasting, food and/or wine, that occurs there.