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Kenya’s all-female blind tasting team aims to make history

The Kenyan team headed for the World Blind Tasting Championships in Champagne next month is the first all-women squad in the competition’s ten year history.

Credit: Instagram/ teamwinekenya

The competition, which was won by Hungary last year, will be held this October in the Ayala Champagne house in Aÿ. The teams have to taste a dozen wines and deduce the variety, region, producer and vintage from what is within the glass – their answers are then scored and the team with the most points takes the crown.

It has been dominated by European men before, but Team Kenya is ready to cause an upset. Joy Adero Ochola, Soraiya Ladak, Melissa Mwende, Beverly Mbaika and coach Victoria Mulu-Munywoki each found themselves becoming fascinated by wine through different paths.

Speaking with Business Daily Africa, Ladak said: “Wine found me. I was doing something different. I was working for the UN, and a pregnancy later I had a very enhanced bouquet and palate which served me well in my wine discovery. I quit and I went fully into wine.” She is now the manager of The Wine Shop in Nairobi.

Mulu-Munywoki explained that the team had been at a disadvantage in society: “We mostly had the traditional childhoods of African girls who were expected to take on a lot of roles while our brothers had their feet up…But going to the market and doing the cooking has given us senses that are very attuned. We are also used to working harder for things.”

But, though Kenya is not a major viticultural destination yet (though it is a major export market for South African wine), Mulu-Munywoki argued that the team’s newness to the world of wine could prove to be an asset: “Some of the team have only had wine in their lives for a few years, which also means our palates are fresh. Alcohol fatigue is a real thing”.

Though it is certainly hoping to do well, Team Kenya has tempered its expectations, as Mulu-Munywoki explained: “We get to taste some amazing wines with the best in our field and see some French vineyards we have only ever read about or seen on television…There is nothing bad that can possibly happen.”

However, at present just two of the flights from Kenya to France have been sponsored. A fundraiser to support their efforts can be found here.

Their entry into the competition follows on from the Zimbabwean blind tasting team, who were the subject of recent documentary Blind Ambition. To read db‘s review of the film, click here.

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