I’m the kinda guy who always gets a bit intimidated when it comes to wine tasting. My knowledge doesn’t stretch very far and I don’t want to make a complete fool out of myself.
The one thing that always bugs me when wine tasting with a bigger group, is that’s there’s usually that one person who always knows “best”, and they take over the conversation while telling everyone what we should be tasting.
The blind tasting at The 41 was different. Straight from the get go we were told that “the critics” don’t always know best. It’s all about your own taste preferences. You rank the wines from 1 – 6 and you can add any tasting notes, but it’s not forced – a nice change from feeling like you have to write down something, so no one notices that you hadn’t.
Blind Wine Tasting
The focus was on South African Bordeaux blends, meaning the wine was made from two or more of the traditional Bordeaux grape varieties. For reds, these include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec; while whites are made up from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle.
Each wine was given a cover name to keep its true identity hidden. The first one “Bugatti”, I used as a reference point and gave a fairly average score of 65. Wines that I enjoyed more would receive a score higher, wines that I enjoyed less received a lower score. Bugatti ended up being my 2nd favourite wine of the evening, while “Ferrari” was my favourite with a score of 85
At the end of the evening, the rankings from each guest are counted and the overall winners are announced. Thelema Rabelais 2013 came in first place. It’s a wine that has a dark berry aroma and tastes like lovely sweet fruit notes.
This wine came in close to last place at a tasting a week before, so it’s interesting to see how groups differ, proof that it’s all about your own tastes.
The Food at The 41
When it comes to food and wine pairings, the two often fight for who the star is for the evening. The dishes were healthy and light and they brought the best out in each other.
A prime example was the beef short rib, which was served with a mashed potato crisp. Tasting the wine at first, it was quite bland. But right after a few bites of this rich, meaty dish, the wine seemed to wake from a deep slumber. It was clear that the chef put in a lot of thought in creating dishes with the wine in mind.
But let’s track back a bit and talk about the starters. The chef’s interpretation of steak tartare saw a boiled egg served within the steak, replacing the raw egg. It was served with Spanish bread rubbed with oil and tomato, pickled red onion and a crunchy, salty parmesan crisp
Next up, baby Falklands calamari was stuffed with squid ink infused Israeli couscous atop a Romesco sauce. The couscous looked almost caviar-like thanks to the ink, which imparted its uniquely savoury and salty flavour, while paprika and red pepper in the sauce gave it an earthy, but fresh kick.
Finally, one of my favourite dishes of the evening was a unique twist on duck l’orange, which was heavily influenced by flavours from the South of Greece. Surprisingly, the duck wasn’t the star of this dish. The duck was served with figs, stuffed with a smooth chicken liver pate and a pomegranate and onion salad. The richness of the livers + the sweetness of the fruits, mirrored the flavours of the duck. It was a truly beautiful dish that I will be dreaming about for a long time.
The perfect ending for a meal is a cheese platter – right? Some people prefer the acidity of white wine with cheese, but not me, so I was very happy when it was paired with the sweet and fruity Thelema Rabelais 2013 (the one that I rated the highest!)
Blind Wine Tasting at The 41
This was such a great experience where I learned so much about wine, and how to actually taste wine. The chef presented dishes that held their own in style, but allowed the wines to shine to make our scoring a lot easier.
There are more blind wine tasting events coming up at The 41 over the next few months, which each will focus on a different grape with a specially created menu. Tickets are R495 per person and include a 5 course dinner paired with 6 great wines.
I highly recommend joining one of the next tastings at The 41. Follow the restaurant on Facebook to find out when the next events are taking place.
Directions to The 41
41 Victoria Road
021 437 0558