Yesterday I attended The Wine Society’s “Masterwined” Quiz, as part of a crack Winepages team. Most readers will know that http://www.wine-pages.com, run by Tom Cannavan, contains the most civilised wine forum in the world. It’s a place where you can pretty much find the answer to anything, whether or not wine related, so generous and friendly are those who inhabit it. But the wine knowledge there is pretty impressive, so as well as individual honour, the pride of the Forum was at stake too.
The event took place at the impressive Merchant Taylor’s Hall on Threadneedle Street in the City of London, more than forty teams of six players competing for the London title. I can’t say a lot about the questions themselves – the event is to be repeated around Britain and they don’t want the answers to be given away. But I think I can reveal that we entered the very smart Livery Hall to find nine wines in front of us to be tasted blind. With each wine we got a set of questions, some related directly to the wine and some not at all. In addition, as we went on we also had to fill out some answers to supplementary questions. Some questions were not too difficult, a few were fiendish, a few more were very odd.
Just how do you prepare for such an event? I saw a good few faces familiar from London tastings, so it was obvious it was going to be a serious battle. I heard that one rival team had been getting together for practice tastings, but we followed the trusted method learned through years of tasting experience:
1. Make sure your trainee MW team member has to go to South Africa at short notice;
2. Ensure at least one member (me) has flu but gets better just in time, on the day (if your palate and nasal passages are shot you really have to look at the wine);
3. Load up with protein (a burger at Brasserie Blanc) but avoid the spicy sauce (failed)
4. Don’t drink any wine beforehand – some drank beer or water, I find a G&T cleanses the palate.
Well, with those preparations we were bound to win, and I can say we did, fair and square but certainly not with ease as one team pushed us almost to the end. It was great fun, really well organised by The Wine Society (especially as they frantically added scores as we went along so we could see how we were doing on the screen). Each winning team member won a bottle of their own label Champagne (from Alfred Gratien) to take home, a nice touch. I hope we shall be back to defend the trophy next year. What could be done to improve the event? Well, a branded Wine Society pen (well, if the Wine Gang can do it)…and that question, yes, you know the one if you are listening. Take it out!
Team (clockwise from left): – Alex Lake, Simon Grant, Bryan Collins, David Pope, Chris Hambleton (I took that photo, cleverly avoiding inclusion).