France is World Champion 2020, in the absence of South Africa…

Tuesday, 13 October, 2020
The 8th World Championship of Wine Blind Tasting took place at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, close to Bordeaux, on Saturday the 10th of October 2020.

Only 18 countries could answer the invitation for the World Blind Tasting Challenge organised every year by the French magazine Revue du Vin de France. The French team managed to pull out a great score, and they kept the world title they claimed last year in Chambord, in the Loire Valley.

The French World Champions are followed by China confirming that Asia is not a newcomer in the wine world any longer. The Chinese selection was made among 3700 candidates from 20 different towns, proving how resourceful is this once emerging wine nation. The third place is shared between Sweden and Finland.

Covid-19 regulations made it extremely difficult to meet safely, the main reason why Team South Africa and Team Zimbabwe could not fly to France. This year many teams had to rely on citizens already living in France, or in neighbouring European countries.

Team South Africa was clearly unable to meet the requirements, and the chaotic regulations issued at the very last minute by the Home Affairs deterred the potential competitors from flying to France. However, Gareth Ferreira and Jo Wessels, respectively Best Sommeliers of South Africa 2016 & 2018, were ready to take over the challenge in order to fly our national colours at this world event. Unfortunately, the UK regulations prevented Gareth to leave London where he works, while German rules were such that Jo would have to isolate for 14 days on his way back to Mannheim, something a sommelier working everyday cannot afford.

We all keep our fingers crossed that Team South Africa 2021 will be able to challenge the rest of the work when the pandemic is under control next year.

The French coach felt overwhelmed by the results. “It is a great honour to win twice in a row, something that never happened ever before” declares Vincent Mercier. With four French wines out of the twelve bottles served blind to identify, some teams questioned the fact that it may be an unfair advantage. Editor of the Revue du Vin de France, first published in 1927, Denis Saverot answered that “it is in no way reducing the challenge for all, and the spirit is still here, stronger than ever, but it may be an opportunity to tweak the rules”.

Belgian coach Nathalie Harhelier, who led the world champion team 2017 was a bit disappointed since her team trained a lot this year. “Blind tasting teaches you humility. You can be at your best one day and fail the following one. No tears this year, but a great joy to be among wine friends from all around the world!”

Organiser of the World Championship, Philippe de Cantenac was “so surprised to see the enthusiasm among team who made so many sacrifices to be there” in the midst of very volatile travel regulations. “They were missing Team South Africa and hope to be reunited in 2021 in Chateauneuf du Pape”.

As a reminder the competition’s goal is to identify wines served blind, marking points for the country, the cultivar, the origin, the producer and the vintage. The wines served this year a blend of classics like such as a Meursault 2012 or an Amarone de Valpolicella 2015, and much more difficult contenders such as a Chasselas from Vetroz or a very rare Austrian straw-wine using the Scheurebe cultivar.

Congratulations to the French champion and to the 17 other teams.

The wines were:

1 – Chardonnay – Champagne – France – Ayala – 2013

2 – Chasselas – Vetroz – Switzerland – Cave des Tilleuls – 2015

3 – Chardonnay – Meursault – France – Charles Buisson – 2012

4 – Corvina – Amarone della Valpolicella – Italy – La Dama – 2015

5 – Cabernet / Syrah – Australia – Penfolds – 2018

6 – Grenache – Chateauneuf du Pape – France – La Janasse – 2000

7 – Tempranillo – Ribera del Duero – Spain – Picaro des Agila 2017

8 – Riesling – Mosel – Germany - Van Volxem 2018

9 – Chardonnay – Martinborough -New Zealand – Alta Rangi 2018

10 – Pinot Noir – Santa Cruz Montains – USA – Lilo Vineyards -2014

11 – Merlot – Saint Emillion – France – Valandraud – 2011

12 – Scheurebe – Burgenland – Austria – Nekowitsch – 1998


Follow up the selection of the Team South Africa 2021 on's Spotlight Page: 

Gareth Ferreira
Gareth Ferreira

Jo Wessels
Jo Wessels

more news