A Sparkling Occasion

23 Nov 2015 | Ian Thomas

Last Thursday saw the third hosting of the Turquoise wine tasting challenge, which afforded us the opportunity to say thank you to the people we have worked with during the course of the past 12 months: clients, investee companies, co-advisers and other partners. The event saw 11 teams competing to demonstrate their knowledge of fine wines, failing which their ability to cheat and, lastly, their competence at randomly selecting answers from a multiple choice questionnaire. Despite the availability of the latter, several teams failed to achieve even a 1-in-4 success rate!

This year the aperitif was Nyetimber (www.Nyetimber.com), recently judged to be superior to many leading French champagne brands in an expert blind tasting. For those who have not had the opportunity to try this English sparkling wine, I highly recommend it and I was far from alone in my enthusiasm. In fact, as we learned from one of the questions in the main tasting challenge, England produced 6.3 million bottles of wine in 2014 so there are clearly lots of people out there who have acquired a taste for these relatively new ‘Old World’ vintages.

The main tasting comprised two white, two red and two sparkling wines. For some participants, simply working out which wines fell into each category seems to have presented considerable difficulties. Then there were the trick questions. Having persuaded themselves that one of the reds was from Chateau Musar in Lebanon’s Bekka Valley, one team unwisely selected ‘Kofta’ as the grape variety… Others were caught out by more sophisticated traps such as being offered Sancerre as a grape option rather than a region.

In reality, very few of us had any real insight into the correct answers. For example, have you heard of the Airen grape? Apparently it was the most-planted variety in the world until recently being overtaken by Cabernet Sauvignon. Likewise, do you know that the longest recorded flight of a champagne cork from a bottle was 178 feet (over 50 metres)?!

At the end, it came down to a three-way tiebreaker. The question: what was the price achieved at auction for a single double-magnum of Napa Valley’s Screaming Eagle from each of 10 consecutive years (equal to 40 standard bottles) ? Answer: something like $600K. At the death, class prevailed and my team took home the prize: a magnum of Cremant de Bourgogne for each of us. Santé!

Ian Thomas

Managing Director

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