Oxford wins in 65th Varsity blind tasting

Oxford’s wine tasting team came out on top yet again against Cambridge in this year’s Varsity match, the university’s fourth win in a row and 41st in total.

The victorious Oxford team being presented with the trophy by Pol Roger’s Hubert de Billy

Held yesterday (20 February) at the Oxford and Cambridge Club in London, the two teams went head to head identifying a series of wines by variety, country of origin, viticulutral region and vintage in what was a “fierce” match said organiser and sponsor Champagne Pol Roger.

The wines, chosen by Cassidy Dart, director of wine at Pol Roger Portfolio, comprised six reds and six whites, all sourced from nearby Justerini & Brooks

Jancis Robinson MW and Hugh Johnson judged the team’s choices and their all-important comments backing up their arguments.

The full list of wines can be found in Robinson’s own write-up (here) but included a Burgundian Aligoté (the trickiest wine of the flight it would appear), Mosel Riesling from JJ Prüm and a New Zealand Chardonnay among the whites and a California Pinot Noir, a Ribera del Duero and cru Beaujolais among the reds.

Although close after the whites, in the end Oxford won out with 768 points to 632. Oxford’s Neail Alacha was the top taster, with a personal score of 160, for which he was awarded a magnum of Pol Roger cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2006.

The Oxford team will enjoy a trip to the Champagne house later this year.

The valiant Cambridge team

Meanwhile, Robinson made the point in her own report that the Oxford team has enjoyed “long-term coaching” from academic and Oxford Companion to Wine contributor, Hanneke Wilson, whereas this year’s Cambridge team was largely composed of newcomers, some with only a few months of tasting wine and a couple with little experience of non-Australian wines including captain Jess Rose.

Nonetheless, they (and Oxford) worked hard in the run-up to the match and despite not emerging victorious put in a sterling effort.

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