From detox tea tasting to wine tasting – there are some seriously good things going on in London at the moment. To celebrate The London Marriott Grosvenor Square’s 25th anniversary, I was invited for a wine tasting at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze, a culinary destination with a highly coveted Michelin star.
Our host Douglas Blyde, oenophile, blogger, food writer and events sommelier, impressed us before he even opened his mouth. And when he started his poetic musings on the wonderful wines we had in front of us, we were sold.
Placed in Maze’s private room with a view over the busy chefs next door, we started our wine journey, starting with an English sparkling wine and ending with an ice cider in Canada – this was anything but a stuffy homage to Old World wines.
Douglas was accompanied by Maze’s very knowledgeable sommelier Matteo Ramazzina, who deepened our knowledge about food and wine pairing. After learning about pairing the wines with monkfish, pheasant, wagyu beef and braised pig cheeks, everyone was looking slightly hungry.
Fortunately, we were served a cheese board with semi-hard cheeses, fennel bread and crackers. There was aioli, truffle cream, fried squid, chips and croutons to be had too. And it’s fair to say there was not much left at the end of the evening.
First out was an interesting contender – a Nyetimber Classic Cuvée from 1998. The more unglamorous name for it could be English sparkling wine. But there was nothing unglamorous about it, in fact the Queen was served this award-winning little gem during her Golden Jubilee. What Lizzie likes, we love.
Next up was a 2007 Cigare Blanc from Bonny Doon vineyard. This had a lovely scent of honey and a pale white colour, indicating the age of the wine (in this case – young). Matteo told us it would be perfectly matched with pan fried foie gras and apricots, as well as British or Italian cheeses.
The third wine, a 1996 Riesling Spätlese Troken, was completely different from the Cigare Blanc. The colour was beautifully golden and had definitely a sweeter taste. With its low alcohol content it’s perfect for spicy food. For £60, that can certainly make your curry dinner posh.
Moving on to the reds, we now tried a 100% Pinot Nero from the Italian Alp-region. I immediately got a taste of cherries as I was “inward whistling” the wine in my mouth. My favourite however, was the 2005 Xisto, a Portuguese beauty aged in French oak barrels. I was told this would age well, so maybe it’s a better investment piece than that autumn coat I’ve had my eyes on…
We ended the reds with a heavy, steak friendly 2007 Clos de Los Siete from bad boy vintner Michelle Roland. This posh and plush Argentine is apparently a Ramsay favourite and often occurs on his menus. Gordon wasn’t there to tell it himself, although the chefs next door looked as they could feel his presence, hurrying around, meticulously decorating the plates – waiting for the next f word.
The evening finished with a sweet surprise – an ice cider from Canada. Only 2500 bottles of the Leduc-Piedimonte are produced each year, so it’s a rare finding in restaurants. The apples are plucked at -25°C, making it similar to the production of icewine. Comparing it with Magners would be an insult, it’s a real heavyweight dessert treat and the sweet, concentrated taste lingers for a very long time. By far, this is what impressed me the most.
The evening concluded with a snoop around the kitchen, followed by a tour of the plush-looking dining area. Judging by the plates, the food is every bit as impressive as the wines we tasted.
To celebrate the Marriott’s 25th year anniversary, the hotel is putting on a bunch of events this autumn. Next up is cocktail making, which most probably will end on a slightly merrier note than the wine tasting. When there’s a spittoon in front of you, you don’t exactly chug…