On Sunday, Barcelona was the site of Vila VinitecaÂ´s third annual “Concurso de cata por parejasâ€ (Tasting competition for teams of two). This unique event is open to everyone from sommeliers to rank aficionados of all ages and nationalities and one hundred and twenty teams signed up this time. (Come to think of it, isnÂ´t this a little in the democratic spirit of the social media?)
The “cataâ€ works like this. In the first round each team must identify the country, the zone, the DO, the grape varieties, and the wine maker of two whites, three reds, and two special wines (sparklers, sherries, ports, “noble rotâ€ wines) from anywhere in the world. The teams of two can talk, argue, and compare tasting notes for 90 minutes. The ten teams with the best scores then repeat the format in the final round. (Photo from Verema)
This is a Spanish event; so about half of the wines were Spanish, but the tasters had to be on their toes. True to form wines from Chateau dÃquem, Pouilly Fuisse, and Chateuneuf du Pape in France and Barossa Valley in Australia were snuck in on the first round.
One of last year’s winners, Luis Gutiérrez, told me that he knew of no other major tasting event with this couples format and added that it increased the fun greatly: “You are arguing and discussing with your partnerâ€¦ itÂ´s not as tense and competitive or introspective as other tastings.â€ I certainly can attest to the general good vibes.
Another nice detail is that each contestant could invite a guest; which is how I found myself under the grand pillars of the Casa Llotja de Mar. Good friend, Esteban Celemin, is from the Rueda wine region of Valladolid, Spain. He is also a novice winemaker who has just released his second vintage. I will now shamelessly plug his garnacha and his tempranillo. They are hot stuff and getting better. So keep an eye out for “Palabrasâ€ at your local wine shops, in about five years that is!
Anyway, while Esteban and his partner were straining their brains trying to decide whether a certain big burly red was from Chile or Australia and finally splitting the difference and compromising on Spain (oops, it was a Australian shiraz after all), I was working on my spit discipline and chatting with some of the 58 wine makers who were showing their wines from 11 to 7.
After all was said and done, 200 corks were popped and 3,000 glasses filled and that not counting the three tasting rooms which were going nonstop. We had a great time, and the winners walked off with a cool 15,000 Euros and a trip to Vienna to visit the Riedel stemware factory.
I’ve got to say that this event made me feel much better about my own abilities. At the end of the tasting, the contestants were laughing over the numerous mistakes made. Esteban didn’t identify a As Sortes, Val Do Bibei from Valdeorras, but we didn’t care, because it wasn’t the point of the tasting. One judges mentioned to me that a team just put down “Franceâ€ for one of the wines, as opposed to a region. Even the superstars admitted to being all over the place when it came to nailing down counties and grapes. From VIP’s to mere mortals, faults were evident, but the goal was to enjoy the process, and the spirit and ambiance of the tasting reflected as such. It was fantastic.Â
Quim Vila, owner of Vila Viniteca, said “Concurso de cata por parejasâ€ is a great way to “promote the culture of wineâ€, and I couldn’t agree more. In my book, this is everything a great wine event should be: serious yes, but never forgetting that wine has got to be first and foremost fun. It is good clean fun in its purest form. IÂ´m ready to sign up as a contestant for next year’s event in Madrid. Anyone want to join me?