Written by 12 April 2018
The International Agricultural Show is held in Paris every year, bringing with it food and drink from all over the world. As part of this event, the Erasmus programme holds the Young Wine Professionals tasting competition, offering Plumpton College the opportunity to send two wine students each year. This year it was MSc student James Blackford, and Vivian di Bartolomeo, studying wine business. The week began as any good visit of Paris should; a warm welcome, a whirlwind tour of the city, and, of course, a glass of wine. Read their account:
Following our first night, all students were invited to an introduction to French wine regions, giving us the chance to learn about their terroirs, vinification techniques, as well as taste a few examples. This was hugely informative, teaching us how wine styles change from place to place, and showing us how the climate influences the wines. Afterwards, we were let loose in the fair to sample the best of what French food and wine has to offer. For someone who knows very little about French cuisine, this was a fantastic crash course in its diversity and quality.
As the fair began to wind down for the day, we headed back to our accommodation, where we were to take part in a showcase event of the best produce from each country taking part in both the wine competition. As expected, there were many excellent offerings, from the classic Italian cheeses and German salamis, to the weird and wonderful such as Finnish sweets and Russian Cabernet Sauvignon. Not to be outdone, our delegation had its own selection of products, including cheeses, preserves, and of course, English wine. Food and wine tasting aside, this was a fantastic opportunity to meet and interact with a hugely diverse group of people, and make friends from places all over Europe.
Then of course, the big day arrived. Following an early breakfast and a quick metro journey, we arrived at the competition. Each delegate was led to their station, armed with their tasting glasses and a tasting sheet. The competition was divided into two parts; a test of our ability to distinguish the variety, region, and age of different French wines, and how we can judge a wine compared to a panel of professional judges. This was by no means easy, and really tested our wine-tasting abilities. However, we found our knowledge was greater than we realised, and came out the other side pleased with our test. And the results? No podium finishes unfortunately, but a with a respectable 12th/24 for James and 17th for Vivian, we were pretty pleased with our performances, especially as neither of us had ever tasted competitively before. This was a fantastic opportunity for us to learn more about wine, and we both came away gaining both wine knowledge and new experiences.
Since the original 400-acre College farm was bought back in 1919, Plumpton College has certainly seen a lot of changes.