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France suffers ‘ultimate affront’ in tasting competition

A team of French professionals suffered the “ultimate affront” of finishing in 11th place in a wine tasting competition, well behind the UK team, while a plucky Zimbabwean team forced Italy into an ignominious last place.

The competition was French publication La Revue du Vin de France’s fifth annual Tasting World Championships which, this year, were held at Burgundy’s Château de Gilly on Saturday 14 October.

With China having won a surprise victory last year, this year’s winners were from Sweden with the British team coming second and the Luxembourg team third.

Also in the top 10 finishers were New Zealand, Finland, Spain, Hungary, Quebec (Canada), China and Poland.

A total of 24 teams from across five continents competed this year, with South Africa, the US, Russia and Andorra among those in attendance and with Brazil, Denmark and the Netherlands competing for the first time as well.

The teams tasted 12 wines in total, six white and six red, and had to identify the country or region of origin, main grape variety, vintage and, if possible, the producer.

The wines included some classic French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy, German Riesling and Spanish Garnacha, as well as a couple of trickier examples such as a Nebbiolo from Mexico and a Lebanese Cabernet Sauvignon.

Although excellent at identifying the few French wines being poured, Philippe de Cantenac from LRVF told The Times that the French team, which included Château Margaux’s commercial director Aurélien Valance, had flopped when it came to identifying wines from elsewhere in the world.

He told the paper: “Every French person thinks they are a connoisseur but we only know our own wines and not those from other countries.

“It’s the same with Italy and Spain and all wine producing nations. They only drink their own wines. Countries like Sweden and the UK are far more open.”

French magazine L’Express wailed that if it was bad enough Sweden had been shown to have the finer palates, in an “ultimate affront”, the “Tricolores” had finished behind the UK as well.

This marks at least three years where the French team has failed to win the competition but they can console themselves that they didn’t do as badly as Italy whose team came dead last.

In 23rd place was a team from Zimbabwe competing for the first time and it marked the first time that two African countries competed at the event too.

The story of the four young sommeliers; Tongai Joseph Dhafana, Pardon Taguzu, Tinashe Nyamudoka and Marvin Gwese (who all work in South Africa) has attracted a growing amount of international interest.

Their cause has been particularly championed by Jancis Robinson MW who also helped fundraise for the team though her site,

The four men (who work at La Colombe, Test Kitchen, Aubergine and Cape Grace Hotel) are also to be the focus of a new documentary by Warwick Ross – the director behind 2013’s ‘Red Obsession’.

Still in production, the film is tentatively scheduled for release in early 2019.

The winning Swedish team was made up of:

Torgny Almgren
Jerker Delsing
Richard Granberg
Ulf Palmnäs

The British team comprised:

Christopher Nelmes
Christopher Spencer
Vincent Dulhoste
Warwick Thurtell

And the Luxembourg team was:

Guy Bosseler
Jules Hoffelt
Hervé Amann
Valentin Niro

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