We’ve recently returned from a week at Soneva Gili, our second trip to the Maldives resort owned by the Six Senses group. It’s testament to how much we loved the place, that we went back a second time, but this time our holiday exceeded all our expectations.

Six Senses aim for ‘intelligent luxury’ in all their resorts. A great deal of thought has been given to the villas (all of which are over water) and they are consequently well-equipped and very comfortable. Unlike most resorts you could quite happily spend the week in the villa and never leave, as many visitors seem to do.

Anyhow, aside from the snorkelling, the diving, and general lazing about, we found ourselves there – completely by chance – in a week when there were not only two visiting wine producers, showcasing their wines, but also a visiting chef. Perhaps not suprisingly, we were in seventh heaven, and I’ll be posting my notes from these events over the next couple of weeks.

Overwater Bar at Soneva Gili

Even without special events, the food and beverage experience at Soneva Gili is excellent, especially given the location of the island. The brand strives to minimise the environmental impact of its resorts, as far as possible, and much of the fresh produce is grown in house. We had a wonderful lunch one day in the vegetable garden, selecting the leaves for our salad ourselves.

The selection of wines on offer is broad, and eclectic, with many bottles under $100, but a suitable number of classed growths at the other end of the spectrum. The sommelier, Jasper, was extremely helpful during the week, providing an interesting lesson in pairing wines with Asian flavours. The 2007 Toru from Te Whare Ra – a lovely crisp blend of Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris – from Marlborough, was a particularly good example.

The wine cellar itself is underground, and also houses a cheese cave. It has been fitted out with a table (fashioned from a tree trunk washed up by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami) in order to cater for wine dinners.

Underground Cellar at Soneva Gili

As repeat visitors, the staff laid on a wine dinner in the cellar for the two of us. The menu and pairings are outlined below, but particular highlights were:

Section 94, Dog Point 2007, Marlborough, NZ
I’ve written elsewhere about Dog Point’s main Sauvignon Blanc, but this is a fascinating example of a wine produced from grapes grown in a small section of the vineyard. The wine has extended lees contact in old oak barrels, which gives it a real complexity. Very fruit driven with strong notes of apricot.

Pomerol, Château de Clèmence 1997, Bordeaux
A wonderful accompaniment to beef. Predominantly Merlot, but dominated by black fruits with soft, silky tannins.

Pinot Noir, Pegasus Bay 2006, Waipara NZ
I confess I’ve not yet caught the Pinot bug, except in Blanc de Noirs champagne. However, this really opened my eyes to the possibilities. Vibrant red fruits, particularly cherries and raspberries, with a hint of caramelised toffee. My favourite of the night.

The menu was as follows:

Amuse:
Olive yoghurt ball, black forest ham, melon chutney
NV Champagne, Ruinart Brut, Reims, France

Soup:
Essence of tomato with scallop and lobster
2007 Section 94, Dog Point, Marlborough, NZ

Appetizer:
Chilli caramel Maldivian yellow fin tuna
2005 Savennières, Les Vieux Clos, Nicolas Joly, Loire, France

Refresher:
Champagne sorbet with pomegranate granita

Main:
Cumin scented Black Angus beef with almond rouille and sauteed rocket
1997 Pomerol, Château La Clèmence, Bordeaux, France

Selection of cheese
2006 Pinot Noir, Pegasus Bay, Waipara, NZ

Desert:
Tropical fruit ‘carpaccio’
2006 Lilly Pilly Noble Blend, Riverina, Australia

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