Mark Jackson, Bar Operations, Maray Restaurants
Questions – longer form responses:
How would you describe your wine list?
A: At Maray, our wine list features wine primarily from regions that our food is inspired by: Middle Eastern small plates. We try to balance unusual exciting wines with familiar key grape varieties. We want to create wine stories for guests and make it a memorable experience!
How do you lay out your wine list? And why does this work well for your guests?
A: We offer all wines in 175ml glass, by the carafe or bottle. This really opens the list up for guests to try something new without committing to a full bottle, and place key grape varieties at higher price points to encourage them to try something new or unfamiliar. With red and white we structure the list into sections, such as ‘Big & Bold’ or ‘Spice & Fruit-Forward’ to help direct guests toward flavour profiles they enjoy. Keeping the layout clear and concise also so not to overwhelm our guests with pages and pages of words.
Where do you think is the next up-and-coming wine region?
A: With the issues currently impacting New Zealand and parts of Europe, we may see a move from consumers, as they look to more up-and-coming wine regions such as parts of South Africa. It is also an opportunity for us to recommend different wine producing regions – we have a red from Croatia on our list which I love to introduce people to!
What are guests ordering most from your wine list?
A: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are our strongest sellers, closely followed by a Merlot and Blanc de Blanc from Château Oumsiyat in Lebanon. We have a really good spread of sales across the whole list, some guests may have three glasses of different wines in the same sitting, which is exactly what we are trying to achieve: take them on a journey.
What are your biggest learnings from the pandemic in 2020 and 2021?
A: The value of investing time and energy into team training has proven invaluable and has helped create a wine culture within our company. We focus on the stories behind the wines, the people that produce them, and create wine experiences for guests. Consumers love to learn new things that they can pass on to their friends and family.
Have you seen wine tastes change over the last three years?
A: Consumers are more educated and much more open to discovery than we first thought. Moving away from those same old wines they have drank time and time again, and are in search of something new. We are very well placed at Maray to deliver that. Consumers are also very environmentally conscious, so being able to offer wines on our list that are socially and environmentally responsible has become more important to our guests and will continue to do so.
If you could have any wine on your wine list (past or present), what would it be?
A: All our wines from Château Oumsiyat in Lebanon; particularly the Merlot we currently have is stunning!
What would you like to see guests ordering more of?
A: We have some really interesting wines from Greece, Turkey and North Macedonia that I love. I’d would like to continue directing guests to those wines from that area of world from which our food is so heavily influenced by. What grows together, goes together.
What is your personal favourite wine/food pairing?
A: As a vegetarian and working in restaurant that primarily celebrates vegetables on the menu, I really enjoy a Disco Cauliflower (our top selling dish) with a glass of chilled Kayra, Beyaz Kalecik Karasi Rosé from Turkey. Belter.
Quick-Fire Questions – short responses:
Dinner party or wild party?
A: Dinner party
Cornwall or Ibiza?
Pinot Noir from Cote de Beaune or Central Otago?
A: Central Otago, New Zealand
James Bond or Jason Bourne?
A: James Bond
English bubbles or Champagne?
Rich and robust or delicate and nuanced?
A: Rich and bold
Negroni or Pornstar Martini?