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Even cooler Cali pinot
Terrific deluxe meritage from Two Sisters
A cool California chardonnay
Pinot grigio beats chardonnay!
Frame-up: The Beer Store, beer tax and beer prices


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Smells Like Victory

Battle of wine tasters yields big prizes... Niagara-based Evan Saviolidis took the top prize at Toronto's most recent Wine Tasting Challenge organized by Brock University. He beat a field of 250 competitors.

Identifying wines blind - aka, sight unseen - is a talent and an art. And, some would say, there's no small amount of luck involved. Especially at a competitive level, where the wine gods might deliver up aromas and flavours that are very familiar to the taster's palate... or not. It certainly works both ways.

Niagara-based wine writer Evan Saviolidis relied on all of his talents, knowledge, memory and a few hunches to lock up the top spot at the 2010 Wine Tasting Challenge, held last fall at the Four Seasons hotel and organized by the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University. The annual event is the largest wine tasting challenge the in the world, with a prize purse exceeding $150,000 in cash, trips, scholarships and stemware.

This was Evan's first Wine Tasting Challenge - the event was launched in 2006. He nailed the South African pinotage, which he says "smelled like a north-facing cow on a bad Texas day." That pretty much sums up the notoriously dark and earthy red. Blind tasting is about pulling out characeristics typical of a grape to help in its identification. He correctly deduced an atypical blend of sangiovese, cabernet and merlot: "I got the sour cherry and humus of the sangiovese, the herbaceousness of the cabernet, and the merlot gave the plumminess."

Evan describes his win as "very gratifying." Prized include $5,000 cash, a week in Bordeaux, five days in southwest France, dinner for eight with sommelier Will Predhomme at Canoe and dinner for four at Vineland Estates. The competition is sponsored by a long list of local and international businesses, including Via Allegro, B&W Wines, Spiegelau and CityBites Media.

A contributor to Tidings magazine and a wine instructor, Evan gets to taste way more wines than most people and, crucially for competitions such as these, he does it regularly. Past winners are all industry people who taste daily, which can only help. "It does," said Evan, "The more you practice, the better you become. When I wasn't tasting wines for nearly a year, my palate was shot. But when I got back into the rhythm of it, it came back quickly."

After beating out more than 250 competitors, it seems safe to say Evan's palate is "back".


Up to the Challenge?

Held every November, the WTC aims to encourage excellence in the hospitality trade. Amateur enthusiasts are also welcome. There is no fee to enter, but space is limited. Registration starts in October at winetastingchallenge.com. Prizes for 2011 will include trips to China, Greece, Italy, France and California.


Want to Learn from Evan?

Check out Evan's website to find out about attending his courses or tasting sessions.


Note: this article appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of City Bites.

 


 

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