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Oxford and Cambridge chase wine blues

The wine societies of Oxford and Cambridge universities are lobbying to have wine tasting ratified as an official sport.

If the bid is successful, team members will become ‘Blues’ – or in this case Half- Blues, or ‘Colours’ – if they represent their university.

The tradition of awarding colours for sporting achievements dates back to the early 19th century when Oxford and Cambridge staged their first rowing races.

The universities have fought an annual wine tasting contest since 1953. Cambridge won this year’s contest – held last month – but Oxford boast the most cumulative wins: 34 against their rival’s 20.

The contest has been sponsored by Pol Roger Champagne since 1992. Many team members go on to successful careers in the wine trade, often as MWs.

It is taken very seriously. Oxford trains six days a week under the auspices of a senior member of the Oxford University Wine Circle (OUWC). Top individuals from either team win magnums of Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill and subscriptions to Decanter magazine.

Both teams are equally keen on getting wine tasting granted Half-Blue status. ‘There is a lot of prestige. You feel your sport has been recognised officially,’ Oxford spokesman Charl Pistorius told decanter.com.

Blues are entitled to wear official blazers (Cambridge Half-Blue blazer pictured) amongst other privileges, such as membership of sporting clubs like the Hawks’ Club at Cambridge or Vincent’s Club at Oxford.

Last year the Blues Committees of the universities rejected the notion of making wine tasting official.

‘We need to present it as an intellectual sport. We have more weight behind it this year,’ Pistorius said.

Alex Hunt, 2000 captain of the Oxford team and now group wine buyer at London merchants Berkmann Wine Cellars, considers it ‘an excellent idea.’

He added, ‘Some people say it doesn’t constitute enough of a physical challenge but I can assure you the training is physically extremely demanding. And it’s far more of an intellectual requirement than rowing.’

Others are not so sure. Decanter managing editor Amy Wislocki – who won Colours at Cambridge for pool – said, ‘there is a lot of glory associated with being a Blue. But a Blue is for a sporting achievement. However talented you are I don’t see wine tasting as a sport.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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