Maties retain the Vino Varsity challenge!

On Friday the 14th of August 2015, the 7th annual Vino Varsity Challenge took place at Backsberg Estate Cellars and was nothing less than an absolute success.

Clear, sunny skies prevailed when all of a sudden there was a thunder-like eruption:  looking outside we saw the teams and their supporters arriving.  Excitement and enthusiasm were abundant with chanting, war cries and and laughter filling the Backsberg air!

Teams were armed, thirsty and ready to battle it out at this year’s Vino Varsity Challenge.

The teams included the University of Pretoria (Tuks), Cape Town (Ikeys) and Stellenbosch (Maties) wine societies.  Earlier in the week we spoke to each of the team captains.  Everyone seemed very confident with Jana Knoetze (Tuks) saying how it was time for the cup to be held by a society outside of the Western Cape.  The challenge was on.

Not only would these teams need to prove their worth to their loyal supporters but they would need to impress the judges.  Judges for this year’s event included Ross Sleet (Cape Legends Sales Director), David Clarke (Ex Animo wine company) and Zaan Eksteen (Invoer – Importers of artisan wines).

The competition is broken into three sections: general knowledge, blind tasting and a debate.  The general knowledge section is comprised of 30 questions covering the history of wine in South Africa, the world of wine and winemaking practices.  Teams were put under pressure right from the start with a few uncalculated guesses, passes or no answers at all.  Ikeys had great support, screams coming from the crowd, “Come on Ikeys, the cup is yours, you can do it!”.  It all seemed to help when Ikeys found themselves in a dominant position winning the general knowledge section.

Next up was the blind tasting.  It seemed all teams had “seasoned” wine enthusiasts, with the round ending on a much closer note.  We heard a few comical reactions such as, “This wine tastes like more!”  which, in turn, scored teams a bonus point here and there.

After the break it was time for the final part of the Vino Varsity competition, the debate.  This year each team had to present an export strategy which focused on three international markets. Both Ikeys and Tuks put up great arguments but it seemed Maties were in a league of their own, knowing they had to “risk it for the biscuit”.  The markets which got much of the attention from the teams included China, United States of America and Angola.

With the debate over, Simon Back (Backsberg CEO) thanked all teams for participating and their supporters for creating a great atmosphere.  “Teams did incredibly well and it was a very close call at the end”, he said.  Ikeys won both the general knowledge and the tasting round but in the end it was Maties who came back strong with their rock solid debate, clinching the cup back from Ikeys.

Jo Williams (Maties captain) was jubilant.  Her and team Maties had come back and won Vino Varsity 2015 and, as victors, were presented with the Vino Varsity decanter filled with a 1992 vintage of the Backsberg Klein Babylonstoren (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend).