Friday, January 22, 2010

Wine Olympics (Guerilla, that is)

They might have been flying in the face of VANOC marketing guidelines, but Vancouver wine history was made the other night when four of the local wine societies got together to host the Vancouver Wine Olympics. Knowing how VANOC (the Olympic Organizing Committee) doesn't take so kindly to the unauthorized use of the "O" word, we all had to be sworn to secrecy and silence during the course of the evening. No one wanted to be shut down for guerilla marketing before we'd even had the chance to sample the wines.

I'm not exactly sure that the local populace has been ecstatic in its embrace of the Games. For the longest time, you'd be hard-pressed to think that the upcoming Winter Olympics were going to create any excitement in VanCity at all. However, that didn't stop the members of the BC, Australia, American and French wine societies from jumping at the chance to buy the less than 100 tickets available for this special tasting.

The concept was that each of the four societies would chose three red wines - all had to be currently available in town and had to cost less than $40. All wines would then be served up blind to a cross mixture of all four societies and ranked. The top three wines (and their respective society) - as chosen by the participants - would be awarded gold, silver and bronze medals.

Each society was only allotted 22 tickets and all of them were sold out within a day. So no one group had an advantage in numbers and no one in attendance knew which wines were which when they were poured.

After some time for tasting and table discussion, everyone was asked to rank the 12 wines from 1 - 12 (or at least 1 - 10, with three 10's). It was very evident at our table that there were some wines that were clearly enjoyed and others that met with some rather nasty reactions.

I was actually surprised a bit by the fact that I wasn't more blown away by the wines in general. At $40 a bottle, I thought that each of the societies could have come up with some rockin' wines. There were definitely some that I thoroughly enjoyed, but some of them just didn't seem to live up to the occasion.

I do have to admit that, secretly, I was praying that the BC wines didn't finish dead last as a group.

Once the tasting was done and the scores were tallied, there was one big surprise (cum embarrassment?) when, in our own little "Bottleshock" moment, the "bottom" three wines were all presented by the French society. Either they chose wines that matched up much better with food or the wines being imported from France don't really match the Vancouver palate - particularly when you see that they presented a Bordeaux, a St. Chinian and a Rhone as their wines, which would normally right up my alley (or palate).

The top three wines were evenly split between the three remaining societies. Australia took the gold, the US (read California) took silver and the BC home team took bronze.

Those three wines were:

Gold - 2007 St. Halletts Blackwell Shiraz

Silver - 2006 Starmont Merryvale Napa Cabernet Suvignon

Bronze - 2007 Seven Stones Similkameen Meritage

We were told that the Blackwell was a clear winner - by 140 votes - while numbers two, three, four and five were only separated by 7 votes - pretty much a dead heat amongst 88+ voters.

For interest sake, I'll note that the Blackwell was my first choice but Boo's 7th. Whereas we both ranked the Starmont Merrydale as our second picks. Both of us also pegged the number 4 overall wine, the 2006 Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Ridge Shiraz (Australia) as our third fave.

Boo's overall fave didn't fare so well. He picked the 2007 Margaret River Ringbolt Cab Sauv whereas the group ranked it as ninth overall. He only ranked the Blackwell as his 7th pick.

All in all, I think it was a fun evening. I hope they try another tasting - maybe with white wines. The unfortunate part about it is that I don't get to add a bottle to The List since it was only a tasting. I know that I will be grabbing a couple of these bottles down the road.

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