International Wine Challenge Day 1 - fun at the Barbican

For the next two weeks I’m going to be filling the role of ‘panel chair’ at the International Wine Challenge (IWC), the world’s largest blind tasting competition.

For a freelancer like me, it is quite nice to have a couple of weeks where I’m doing something that resembles a normal job. I have to get out of bed early and commute into central London, just as I did for 15 years until February 2008, when I left my day job of science editor. I wouldn’t want to be back in the commuting groove full time, but I don’t mind it for short periods like this.

Once again, the IWC is being held at the Barbican (pictured top), in the City of London. It’s a strange place – on the one hand rather ugly, but on the other hand oddly appealing.

My team, from left to right, consisted of Linda Simpson, Mauro Zanas (a wine researcher from Brazil), Simon Goatlee and Nicola Hale. We tasted well, at a reasonable pace: 122 wines in all, with healthy discussion and a real sense of teamwork. Highlights? Of 122 wines, we only had a single white flight, that consisted of three Romanian Chardonnays, so all the high spots were red. I had a few Turkish Syrahs that were pretty impressive, and wine of the day was a gorgeous Tuscan take on the same variety.

We also had what I suspect to be a high quality vintage Port. We also had some lovely cool climate Aussie Cabernets. Lowlights were two flights of rather green Bordeaux reds. The day went pretty quickly, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

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