After receiving a number of enthusiastic responses interspersed with a handful of dissatisfied ones, we thought we should bite the bullet and ask our mercilessly honest customers what they thought of a wine that we consider to be our most exciting white wine discovery of recent years. It's the Silex Chardonnay, Domaine Le Mas des Masques, a powerful and exhilerating non vintage Provencal Chardonnay, which reminds us of serious white Burgundy, but at a quarter of the price. Here are the replies, in descending order of enthusiasm......
"At the risk of sounding like a dreadful snob (and since we are unlikely to meet, political correctness can be disregarded), the problem with Silex is that it tastes TOO MUCH like mature grand cru burgundy. I think its the slight oxidation that people find difficult. The closest I've come to it is Adrien Belland Corton 2000, drunk this year...Anyhow to my mind I cracked open another bottle and I'm loving it - a truly terroir driven wine - which is precisely what you purport to offer in the first place."
"My observation for what it is worth is that your punters who do not like the Silex are pouring straight from opening. They should let it breathe for 20 minutes. Properly grown up white wine, reminds me a little of the Leflaive Bourgogne at beginning but more generous on the palate."
"I think this is quite a serious wine. I do not think it is easy-drinking but it is certainly not like Marmite which, like olives, I still cannot make up my mind whether I like or not. I think it grown up, which is a pretty stupid way of describing a taste. It has a lot of substance. We drank a lot last weekend with 6 friends and it was well liked by all of us. I suspect it will continue to improve with age, though the rate of consumption here will mean I am unlikely to experience this. One of my friends called it serious chardonnay. Not a bad description."
"I'm in the enthusiastic camp. I find it a fascinating wine which is not easy to characterise. I served it to ten people at dinner (with halibut, for what it's worth) and it made a big impression (without my soliciting a response.) Several noted the name and asked where I'd got it, so you may even pick up some customers as a result. What I think is interesting about the wine is a hint of something slightly exotic (almonds? but richer than this) which is very unusual for the grape variety. Very clean and well balanced."
"Mrs X and I are pleased with the wine. We're onto our third bottle, having opened one just now in the Interests of Dispassionate Inquiry. It is a wine for food, being more toasted with the fruit suppressed. Even though it is heavier and wooded it is still elegant and balanced. It's a bit like an old, big burgundy that manages still to taste fresh. At £12.95, I think it is a steal."
"Let me first put this in some context, our cellar lacks few wines and so this wine excited me as to me it was unknown, and with anything unknown (as your own advertising stated) there is a risk. I ought to have waited at least 48 hours to allow the travel sickness to wear off and for the wine to have rested, however sadly I gave way to temptation and BOOOM!!!!! If you could present a comic on this wine it would be thick with action, its a serious wine. Far more than just a wolf in sheep's clothing or a stealth chardonnay flying under the radar. NO - this is a most complex, exciting, intriguing and interesting white - even if you hate it one must give it credit for creating enemies because anyone with a palate must get this wine, if only for a moment."
"I could never have guessed that it comes from Provence. It has an excellent rich and lingering finish, which could easily belong to a good quality Meursault. My wife and I are pleased that we bought a case."
"It is, shall we say, unexpected, but I like it and won't send any back."
"Just to let you know – I love the Silex. And Marmite."
"Thanks for the message and I can understand why you might have sent it! We had a bottle at the weekend and it does have quite an interesting back-note that perhaps you might not be expecting, especially from the nose. The verdict here was positive though, especially with some slightly spicy food!"
"Relax re your judgement. The Silex is a good wine, plus it is interesting considering the grape and where it comes from. It is not a very fine wine but is certainly very great value for the price. Choices in life are all about value, the balance between quality and cost. Folk have read your excitement and interpreted this as Batard-Montrachet but forgotten that they paid £12 a bottle. Silex is good quality at a low price. Be proud of it."
"Love it - put me down for a couple cases each year - genuinely mistakeable for Domaine Lefliave Puligny village"
"YES YES YES it's a stunner at the price. All the interest and complexity of the South elided with a pure Chardonnay. Mrs K enthused and that is a big approval rating. I opened it on Friday evening as I didn't want to use Delas Hermitage 2002 (white) in a fish sauce; pumped, drank a couple of glasses on Saturday evening; pumped, finished Tuesday evening (even better!). Tell the doubters to decant it or go back to boring Macon – good luck to 'em."
"Nice try with the auto-suggestion, chaps. But I am not sending any of my delicious bottles back for you to drink. Next time try a full blown product recall."
"I love the stuff"
"I am in the love it camp! But then again I like marmite too!"
"I think this is quite a serious wine."
"I am in the "I like a lot" camp on this one"
"I am very happy with the Silex and will probably make it one of my regulars!"
"Only had one bottle so far but think it's great! It matches your description so not sure why anyone would be surprised!"
"It's delicious. Don't know what those dissenters are on about!"
"I'm in the "love it" camp!"
"At £12.95, I think it is a steal."
"Please put me in the 'excellent' camp!"
"I thought it was excellent. It reminded me of the Ridge Chardonnay which I drank at the end of a long and exhausting trip to New York and which was akin to a blood transfusion. I hope to be able to buy some more in due course."
"Damon do you have a case available I need MORE :) "
"Funnily enough (you always know there's bad news to be disseminated when a sentence begins 'Funnily enough), I was only saying this very morning that I'm disappointed in the Silex Chardonnay. I don't hate it, I don't loathe and despise it: if I was married to it, I'd probably rumble on for a few more years (months): but I have to say that, given the dithyrambic build-up, tangible disenchantment had taken up residence and was glaring steadily at the remaining bottles. No matter. You drink some, you lose some. Your kind offer to swap/reimburse blunts any chagrin."
"Damon, thanks for being proactive on this. I'm afraid I fall into the "no" camp (I don't like Marmite either...) - I definitely prefer a more svelte little number, this one is a whole lotta lovin. Too much for little ole me."
"I have to say that I am one that falls into the "disappointed" camp on Silex. I don't find it particularly crisp or clean, in fact I'd say it's rather cloying and has too much of the rotten fruits taste for my liking."
"I am sorry to say that we completely agree with the hostile view about the Silex. This wine simply recalls [horse]shoeing, that burnt and unmistakeable smell that you get when the smith (nowadays always called the farrier, I believe), re-shoes the horse."
"My wife and I having both tried the Silex, we are a divided family! She quite likes it, whereas I definitely do not! Sorry!"
"Oh dear, I'm afraid I fall into the No camp about Silex. Opened a bottle on the weekend and alas it didn't have any of the minerality and finesse raved about in Robin's tasting notes 1st November. It felt as flabby as Australian chardonnay and wasn't a huge pleasure to drink."
"Well, we liked it and certainly won't be returning it. It is definitely good and definitely unusual (which is half the battle nowadays). But I'm not sure that we thought it was the most transcendent experience of our lives. I remember once buying some amazingly powerful S. African white from you called something like Palladius. That was truly amazing."
"Afraid I find myself in the "hate marmite" camp with respect to the Silex"
"I was interested to see your email because Christina and I were firmly in the camp of wondering what all the fuss was about and, to be absolutely honest, questioning the reliability of recommendations, given it got such a good write up. Are you sure the blending of vintages didn't vary between barrels or something and perhaps there is bottle variation? We opened a bottle at the weekend and it wasn't so much that we hated it, rather thought it was very ordinary."
"We found the Silex very odd. Pungent, harsh, assertive, oily, curious echoes of Retsina even. I think I might get to love it eventually, after drinking a great many bottles, but my wife didn't like it one bit."
"That's most interesting. I tucked into a bottle of it the day it arrived and did get that 'marmite' feeling! I have to say that, whilst I can appreciate it is a most complex wine and very fine for its price, I wouldn't describe it as a typical chardonnay. I was expecting something a little less gutsy for want of a better word. I am no wine connoisseur but I do know what I like and this particular wine rings of charcoal to me and weighs a little too heavy on the palate. I'm not surprised that you have divided reactions, but I wasn't so disgusted that I felt the need to complain because I do see why you got rather excited - it is most unusual."
"I don't feel the love like you guys did for this particular Silex Chardonnay. It seems quite sharp to me and slightly chemically on the nose. I'm not yet sure if I'd like to swap it out but will keep you posted."
"I am afraid that I am in the 'not getting on with' the Silex category."
"I'm afraid my wife and I really don't like it- too strong/ heavy/ unusual - not for us."
"This is a disappointment - it has a taste to it that does not belong to a decent chardonnay, underneath this taste there is a decent wine, how old is this wine, there is no date on the bottle, is it a blend of different years?... the next time you sell a white wine which is a blend I suggest you say so at the outset. there is always an iffy reason when different years are mixed."