Search for a Super Taster. Could you be one?

Friday, 26 April, 2019
TOPS at SPAR Wine Show
Only a small percentage of the world’s population has the genetic predisposition to enjoy a hyper-accurate palate memory – BUT you can develop your wine palate, and now’s the time to do it, in preparation for the South African Wine Tasting Championships (SAWTC).

Convened by “The Flying Sommelier” Jean-Vincent Ridon, the SAWTC offers any wine enthusiast – amateur and professional alike – the opportunity to put your tasting talent to the test – and this year, visitors to the TOPS at SPAR Wine Show in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town will have the chance to put themselves in the running to be one of the lucky few who will travel to France to compete in The World Blind Wine Tasting Championships in October 2019.

According to Jean-Vincent Ridon, the key to successful winetasting is to develop your memory of smells and flavours.

Serious wine fundis who plan to take advantage of the opportunity to find out if they are a Super Taster at the TOPS at SPAR Wine Shows will find some helpful tips in a blog by Steve Autry, describing five smart ways to develop your wine palate.

1. Take notes while tasting

It’s helpful to take notes when exploring different varieties of wine. Start by describing what the wine looks like under normal lighting. Pay attention to colour and clarity.
Next, make note of the scent. There will be plenty of primary, secondary, and tertiary aromas to look out for.
When determining taste, focus on the texture and acidity. Also, describe what type of finish the wine has and whether it’s short or long.
Top it all off by deciding if you actually enjoyed the wine. Try giving it a score on a 100-point scale.
By taking notes, you’ll eventually learn to notice subtle differences between similar wines.

2. Taste with friends

Taking notes is important if you want to develop your palate. However, blind tasting parties can go a long way as well.
Wrap a few bottles up with brown paper bags or aluminum foil. Label each one with a distinct number.
Compare notes and descriptions with the people around you. You’ll find it surprising how differently they describe flavours or notice new ones. As a result, you can expand your wine vocabulary, too.

3. Compare two wines directly

If you want to develop your palate effectively, try buying two different types of wine.
Pour a little of each wine into separate glasses and begin tasting. Compare and contrast the two wines. Try to identify any differences and similarities between them.
Comparing wines side-by-side provides plenty of opportunities to learn. Sometimes you can choose to compare wines from the same region. Other times, you can go with wines made from two different types of grapes.

4. Perfect your swirling technique

Smelling your wine is the key to detecting subtle aromas. To get the most out of smells and develop your wine palate, you have to learn how to swirl. Swirling helps the wine interact with oxygen, unlocking hundreds of aromas.
To swirl, draw circles for a few seconds while gripping the stem of the glass. Focus on moving in just one direction rather than switching back and forth.
If you’re new to wine tasting, you can also practice your technique by using water. This will prevent you from staining your clothes or carpet.

5. Practice often but with moderation

It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, the best way to develop your palate is to taste often. Therefore, it’s important to practice every time you get a glass of wine.
Instead of swigging down the entire glass, slow down. If you get a chance, look on the importer’s site to learn more about the wine. Also, try visualizing your surroundings as you drink to improve your memory.

Final thoughts on developing your wine palate

Following the steps outlined above will help you refine your palate and learn the nuances of wine. When tasting, avoid wearing fragrance, as it can mask the aromas. Also, if you become overwhelmed by aromas, take a whiff of your forearm to neutralize them.

Jean-Vincent Ridon adds, “The search is on to find wine tasters with natural talent, and those who have cultivated their talent – and there’s no criteria for entry. Over the last few years, our search uncovered an advocate, a corporate clothing salesperson and Chris Groenewald, a church musician who joined Team South Africa in 2014 is now working as a wine specialist.

Enter the Search for Super Tasters at the TOPS at SPAR Wine Show!

Simply register at the SAWTC stand in either Durban, Joburg or Cape Town, before stepping up to taste up to 30 shortlisted wines on show at Thursday, Friday OR Saturday sessions.

SAWTC local competitions take place on the Saturday evening in each location where participants will be required to identify six wines "blind” from the shortlisted SAWTC selection.

Winners from Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town will be invited to participate in the national SAWTC final to be staged in Cape Town in late July 2019. Finalists will be selected to join “Team South Africa” to travel to France to compete in The World Blind Wine Tasting Championships in October 2019.

28 countries will participate to the world blind tasting at Chateau of Chambord in the Loire Valley.

23 countries participated in the World Blind Tasting Championships in 2018 held at Chateau Saint Pierre de Serjac. The World Blind Tasting Championships have been organised by La Revue du Vin France since 2013.

The Search for a Super Taster is just one of many reasons why wine-lovers of every description will be flocking to the TOPS at SPAR Wine Show. This is an opportunity not to be missed for wine estates and affiliated products to showcase your product to potential buyers – not only is it South Africa’s largest travelling wine show, it’s also 87% of visitors buy (not just taste) wine.

Stands are still available for the Pretoria, East London and Nelspruit shows. With stands sold out in Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, it’s clear that there is no better way to reach the wine-loving, wine-buying market.

• 9 to 11 May – Durban
• 6 to 8 June – Johannesburg
• 11 to 13 July – Cape Town
• 25 to 27 July – Port Elizabeth
• 3 to 5 October – Pretoria
• 7 to 9 November – East London
• 28 to 30 November – Nelspruit

For more info on how to book your stand for the Pretoria, East London or Nelspruit shows, go to

“The Flying Sommelier” Jean-Vincent Ridon
“The Flying Sommelier” Jean-Vincent Ridon

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