60 years of Sniffing, Slurping, Spitting & Sampling Fine Wines Under Exam Conditions
Furiously taking notes and concentrating hard, you'd think these Oxford & Cambridge University students were taking a difficult exam. WSJ's Dipti Kapadia finds out its no ordinary exam, but one that contains some sniffing, slurping, spitting and sampling lots of fine wines.
The 60th anniversary of what is thought to be the oldest blind tasting contest in the world saw the traditional Oxford and Cambridge university rivalry matched by a competition pitching the UK wine trade against the wine press.
The two close-fought matches, which took place yesterday simultaneously and with the same wines, saw Oxford and the wine trade team triumph narrowly over their opponents.
Despite these overall victories, the individual award for best taster was shared between representatives from Oxford and Cambridge, while Anthony Rose claimed top spot from within the MW-packed professional teams.
Held at the Oxford & Cambridge Club in London, the competition’s long-term sponsor Pol Roger celebrated this anniversary year by compiling what the house’s UK sales manager Cassidy Dart described as “the greatest selection of wines that you could possible have in a blind tasting.”
The 12-strong line-up included Joseph Drouhin Le Montrachet 2008 and Egon Müller Scharzhofberger 1987 among the whites, while the reds were represented by wines such as Vega Sicilia Unico 1953 and Château Haut Brion 1995.
Explaining the Champagne house’s support for this annual event since 1992, Nick James, managing director of Pol Roger UK, told the drinks business: “It’s a way of inspiring people. In our industry it’s very much about people and we’ve got to follow the younger people. That was the mistake that Sherry made – they forgot the young.”
Started in 1953 by legendary man of the wine trade Harry Waugh, at the time working for John Harvey & Sons, the competition sponsorship was taken over by Pol Roger in 1992.
The competition has fostered the careers of many leading members of the wine trade and press, including a number of Masters of Wine, cultivated fine wine enthusiasts internationally, and encouraged the discipline of blind wine-tasting, a notoriously difficult feat, to be acknowledged as a worthy academic practice.
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