British universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have been defeated in a surprise result at the European final of the Left Bank Bordeaux Cup 2017, held in London. Decanter’s managing director, Sarah Kemp, was on the jury and reports on one of the wine world’s toughest competitions…

Left Bank Bordeaux Cup 2017: Britain’s young wine enthusiasts defeated

This year’s Left Bank Bordeaux Cup grand final, to be held at Château Lafite-Rothschild in June, will include teams from HEC Lausanne, Switzerland and Bocconi, Italy.

But, for the first time in memory, no competitors from the UK made the cut in a tournament that British readers might understand best as a kind of University Challenge of wine – at least, for Left Bank Bordeaux wines.

London’s Connaught Hotel saw a tense final on Saturday, conducted under the beady eye of Grand Maître of Bordeaux’s Commanderie du Bontemps, Emmanuel Cruse of Château d’Issan, along with other jury members.

This year’s competitors at the LBBC 2017 European final: 

  • Oxford University
  • Cambridge University
  • Imperial College London
  • Bocconi, Italy
  • Copenhagen Business School
  • École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
  • HEC Lausanne
  • I.E. Business School, Madrid

No French teams were present — France had its own final for national teams.

The eight teams answered a series of multiple choice questions followed by a blind tasting. The 24 students, of whom only thee were women, were suited, booted and deadly serious.

Tough competition  Could you have answered correctly?

The competition started with 10 multiple choice questions worth 2 points a piece, and here are two examples (scroll down for answers):

How many classified growths are there in the town of Cantenac?*

A) Seven   B) Eight   C) Nine


This year, which anniversary will the appellation Pessac-Léognan be celebrating?**

A) 20th   B) 30th   C) 40th 




Oxford and Cambridge, always strong favourites, were equal first after the multiple question round. But the competition is always won or lost on the blind tasting, where there are 3 rounds of 10 points. Competitors must name the appellation, then the vintage. There were many furrowed brows, deep in concentration and grappling with uncertainties — Is it Pauillac or St Estèphe….?

With only the Sauternes and Barsac round to go, 5 universities were within 2 points of each other. This was the round that decided the competition, as it so often does. Two Sauternes, one Barsac. Which one is the Barsac? Both HEC Lausanne and Bocconi pulled ahead with full 10 points each for the flight.

The result

It’s the first time in my memory that a British team has not made it to the final. When the results were announced the Italian team,who came second to HEC Lausanne, punched the air and hugged each other, then rang home. The fact that they were first time entrants made the result even more surprising, along with the disclosure they had only started practicing seriously in January.

There was huge applause for the winning teams, and especially the newcomers. Bocconi’ Massimiliano Ciaramelli said, ‘Wine Tip, a Bordeaux distributor in Milan, helped us. They gave us four three-hour lessons, then we were on our own. We got sponsorship for our tickets here from Castellare Di Castellina in Tuscany. It’s a dream to be going to Château Lafite.’

The grand final will take place on on 16 June .

*The correct answer is nine. (Only IE Madrid responded correctly)

**Answer 30th.

Written by Sarah Kemp, managing director of Decanter Magazine. Edited by Laura Seal for Decanter.com

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