So, day 3 of the International Wine Challenge has come and gone. Today, the panel I was part of tasted 109 wines, which was a comfortable number. It’s important that you don’t taste so many that your palate becomes physically fatigued: this can happen. 109 wines, tasting from 9.45 to 4.15 pm with an hour for lunch, is not too many for tasters with some experience – as long as you don’t do too many repours, and aren’t just tasting tannic reds.
Our panel today was another really good one. Poor old Ben Campbell-Johnston had me as his panel chair again for the second day in a row. He’s great to taste with. I was also delighted to taste with the other two panellists: Kenichi Ohashi from Japan, who is a regular participant at the IWC, and Emma Roberts, one of the UK’s top wine PRs. Once again, we had some quality banter, which helps make the day more fun.
Ben has an unusual physical attribute which helps make him a sort of human canary-in-a-cage for a particular wine attribute: volatile acidity. When he tastes wine with high volatile acidity, his face sweats. This is remarkable. I tasted a wine today and wrote down the term ‘volatile acidity’. Then I glanced across to Ben, who was tasting the same bottle. Lo and behold, drops of sweat were glistening under his eyes and on his nose.
One of the highlights of our tasting today was a flight of 11 Argentine Syrahs. I wasn’t expecting too much, but we medalled 10 and commended one other. It was really impressive: very well made, delicious wines. Not too showy or over-ripe, either.