The Renaissance Project’s Wine Tasting Challenge was held in Toronto recently, and the eighth annual event attracted an enthusiastic crew of participants. That they were all in the right spirit goes without saying.
The Challenge, now recognized as one of the largest and most noted wine-tasting competitions in North America, has the dual mandate of encouraging future talent and highlighting Ontario’s professionals on the world stage.
The event is notable for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that it attracts the largest prize purse of its kind, anywhere. The $100,000-plus lot of goodies includes trips to Napa Valley, trips to Tuscany, a day with a master sommelier, cases of wines, private wine-and-cheese tasting parties, bursaries for wine education, stemware, celebrity-chef-hosted dinners, and, for the grand prize winner, a two-week foray to China.
The Wine Tasting Challenge, which is organized and audited by Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, is open to all professional sommeliers, food and wine industry players, students and wine enthusiasts of every stripe. Participants enter as professionals or amateurs and, depending on their formal wine education and whether they’re employed in the industry, are juried appropriately.
It is the professional category, not surprisingly, that attracts the most prestige and whose competitors are eligible for the big-ass awards. The amateur category is aimed at the layperson with a love for the grape.
The event is operated by volunteers, and there are no entry fees.
A diverse range of wines and spirits are presented “double blind” (purchased and at the competition, and pre-poured out of sight), and the “challenge” is to correctly identify the grape varietal, country, region of origin and vintage. The professionals attempt to distinguish seven wines; the amateurs, three. Two supplementary rounds present three double-blind VQA wines and three spirits.
Winners will be notified in January, and posted to the competition’s website www.winetastingchallenge.com. An awards luncheon will whoop it up in the spring.