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Will tasting red and white make Blue?

The wine societies of Oxford and Cambridge universities are making a bid to have wine tasting declared an official sport. If they are successful, team members will get Half-Blues if they represent their university and will be entitled to wear the official blazers. (Half Blues, as opposed to Full Blues, are generally awarded for sports that aren’t so widely represented.)

The varsities take wine tasting very seriously and train hard to prepare themselves for the annual competition. Ty Adams, president of Cambridge University Blind Wine Tasting Society, told ThirtyFifty, ‘We select our team approximately one month before the competition and they then train six days a week until the match. Although identifying wines is extremely important, wine knowledge is equally important, so the team may not taste wine every day.’

At Oxford too there’s a busy training schedule. Charlie Pistorius, who is treasurer of Oxford University Wine Circle, the training ground and platform for sourcing blind tasters for the team, said, ‘We typically have one or two weekly sessions with an industry professsional, such as an MW or a senior member. These sessions are given in a tutorial fashion and we go through each wine in depth, discussing blind-tasting rationale – why it cannot be this grape and why it is more likely to be another, effectively finding the typicity of that wine. Further training would be a team exercise; for this we would also meet at least once or twice a week and taste more randomly.’

The Blues Committees of both universities have been lobbied in the past, but the idea of ratifying wine tasting as a sport was rejected. However, Charlie thinks, ‘It would be a much more convincing and persuasive argument if we presented our case together.’

Both sides believe that the Blues Committees need to understand that what’s involved. As Charlie puts it, ‘Analytical wine tasting is a taxing and highly demanding sport that requires tremendous learning and dedication. It is truly an intellectual sport!’

The contest dates back to 1953 and has been sponsored by Pol Roger Champagne since 1992. As with the Boat Race, there is much competitive rivalry between the teams. Cambridge won this year’s match, held last month, but Oxford are ahead on wins overall.