Wine Olympics: Kenyan team beats seasoned world participants
A team of Kenyan female sommeliers – professionals with wine knowledge – beat seasoned participants such as Italy, Scotland, and Sweden in a blind-tasting wine competition held last weekend in France.
The Kenya team comprised Joy Ochola, Soraiya Ladak, one of the directors of The Wine Shop in Nairobi, Melissa Mwende, a 27-year-old sommelier, Victoria, a celebrated sommelier who has refined the wine-drinking culture in Kenya and Beverly Mbaika, who has been in the wine industry for nine years.
For the first time, the all-five-female team represented Kenya at the competition which attracted 31 countries, most with a long history of grape-growing, and with vineyards dating as far as the 17th century.
Wine tasters from Luxembourg, a tiny country with an equally tiny wine region and best known for its white wines, won the World Blind Tasting Championship this year followed by Portugal and Spain.
In Africa, the Zimbabwe wine-tasting team which has participated in the competition since 2017 led at number 20, followed by South Africa at number 21.
“We were number 26, one position after the US team. We beat Italy which has participated many times [and ranked as one of the top wine-producing countries in the world with a rich wine-drinking culture],” said Victoria Mulu-Munywoki, the team leader of TeamWineKenya.
All five sommeliers have studied wine and made it their career.
The World Blind Tasting Championship, organised by La Revue du Vin de France, was born following the European Wine tasting championship in 2013.
The event will bring together more than 30 countries from around the world to showcase their skills.
The test for the contestants is to identify five aspects of the wine: the type of grape used to make it, which country it is from, the region in the country it originates from, the producer of the wine and the year it was made.
The drink to be used in the blind-tasting competition can originate from any wine-making country in the world.
All the women have gone through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust programme, a four-level international qualification for wine professionals and enthusiasts.
Through the programme, they have learnt how to identify the main types and styles of wine through sight, smell, and taste, while also gaining the basic skills to describe wines accurately.
The work of a sommelier is to create and update wine lists, make recommendations on food and wine pairings, and advise guests on wines based on their personal tastes.
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