- Varsity blind wine tasting match
The Varsity Blind Wine Tasting Match is an annual competition in
blind wine tastingbetween the blind tasting teams of the Oxford UniversityBlind Wine Tasting Society and the Cambridge UniversityBlind Wine Tasting Society. It is sponsored by Champagne house Pol Roger and the current convenor is James Simpson MW.
Each team comprises six tasters plus one reserve. The match consists of a white paper, followed by a red paper. For each paper, the candidates are served the same six wines from clear bottles without labels, to keep the wines' identities secret. Each candidate has 40 minutes to identify various characteristics of the wines. 20 points are allocated for each wine, comprising:
* 5 points for identifying the predominant grape variety
* 5 points for writing a tasting note that accurately describes the wine's characteristics, including appearance, nose and palate descriptors, body, acid level, alcohol content, oak treatment, tannin quality (for reds) and finish
* 3 points for identifying the country of origin
* 2 points for identifying the region of origin
* 3 points for identifying the sub-region of origin
* 2 points for identifying the vintage
The judges have a discretion to award fewer points for partially correct answers and close guesses, and, indeed, to award extra marks for identifying particularly difficult wines. The judges themselves taste the wines blind for the purpose of identifying the difficulty of the paper, and whether candidates should be given extra points in the event that a particular wine does not display the typical characteristics of its variety and origin. The team with the highest aggregate score wins.
The winning team wins a trip to
Épernay, France, to visit the vineyards of Pol Roger and compete in an international tasting match against a French university, plus a bottle of vintage Pol Roger each. The taster with the highest individual score wins a magnum of Pol Roger's top cuvee, Sir Winston Churchill. The reserve taster with the higher score wins a subscription to Decanter Magazine. The losing team each wins a bottle of Non Vintage Pol Roger.
Oxford has won the competition 35 times to Cambridge's 20.
The 2008 (current) winners of the Varsity match were Oxford.
There are two judges, one nominated by each team. In 2008, the Oxford judge was Jancis Robinson MW, and the Cambridge judge was Hugh Johnson. Past judges have included Jasper Morris MW and Bill Baker. The papers are marked anonymously and cross-checked by both judges in order to ensure impartiality.
* [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/wine/main.jhtml?xml=/wine/2006/04/01/edray1.xml&sSheet=/wine/2006/04/01/ixedmain.html Report on the 2006 match from the "Daily Telegraph", 1 April 2006]
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