World Wine Tasting Championships 2017

Wednesday, 18 October, 2017
Jancis Robinson
Zimbabwean-born Tam and I went briefly to gloriously autumnal Burgundy last weekend to witness the performance of the Zimbabwe team in the fifth World Wine Tasting Championships.

Even though we had published several articles about them, and helped raise funds for their trip, we had never met the team of four top sommeliers from South Africa (at La Colombe, Test Kitchen, Aubergine and Cape Grace Hotel) and it was a huge delight to do so. What impressive young men they are, with great intelligence, sensitivity, the Zimbabwean can-do spirit in spades and an extraordinary passion for wine. They see it as their mission to spread the pleasures of wine drinking to southern Africans who are currently much more likely to choose to drink spirits.

They are also very religious and start every tasting session with a prayer, hands on each others' shoulders in a huddle. Unfortunately, however, on Saturday their prayers were not answered – unless of course they had been praying to come second last. (They beat Italy; see full results below.)

But for popularity among the assembled teams of four, some of them with a coach, from 24 different countries (the Québecois counting Québec as a country), the Zim team were the outright winners. The previous evening they had kicked off the communal dinner with a song a cappella in Shona, the language of northern Zimbabwe, with the result that when, just before the tasting competition began at the Château de Gilly, the introductory word Zimbabwe inspired a roar of admiring support – even more than for the other newcomers to the competition Brazil, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The four from Zimbabwe – Tongai Joseph Dhafana, Tinashe Nyamudoka, Marlvin Gwese and Pardon Tagazu pictured above being filmed while tasting – then got down to business, along with the other 23 teams, with last year's winners the Chinese (average age 27ish) the hot favourites. Their French coach told me he had spent two months choosing the team, three of them new to the competition

To read more online, click here.

Team Zim in Alsace with Denis Garret
Team Zim in Alsace with Denis Garret

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